Live At The Jazz Cafe, London 9/09
It is so easy these days to be third rate as a performer and artist yet still receive attention by the bucketload. If like me you have heard quite enough lately about Lixie Pott, Little Superdrug, Saturday Shop Girls etc it is refreshing to be able to report on a spirited performance that struck the right balance between skill and fun.
Renowned for her singing with French offbeat combo Nouvelle Vague and their retooling of punk and new wave songs into latin vamps and charming pop reimaginings, Ms Celeste is a chanteuse among chanteuses. Her band are respectful but pokey when needed, running from feathery whispers of sound to full six-man and two-guitar roar at times. The keys player could well be on the run from Devo at certain points in this set, as distorted bass noodles run under the drums and percussion team’s steady pulse. It’s the feel-every-note Fender bassplaying that underpins most of the selections tonight, however.
Wafting onto the stage on a glittery top, Celeste has the audience watching her every bob and weave as her breathy voice floats over the meaty ensemble. Having the sense to mix in familiar NV versions with new material is a cool move and she keeps the crowd on board. Unfortunately a large portion of the audience keep chatting to each other throughout the show, not caring a fig about genuine listeners ; many of these gasbags are of Gallic stock and should be teleported to the nearest winebar where explaining where their shoes were bought and how much they cost might amuse their pals more than it did me. All venues should have an area where these morons can go and not bother music lovers….
These songs beg to be acted out and Marina Celeste is a natural at enlivening such material, she even climbs up the staircase and crawls around the stage at various points in the show. If she was nervous – this was their first London show – it didn’t become evident at any point. ‘Guns Of Brixton’ becomes a sly tread, acoustic guitar against ethereal keys ;the kittenish voice murmers ‘You can crush us..’ and you believe it. French song ‘Helene’ is a feline slink over a doomy electro heartbeat. The basic elements of the band sound could well be Grace Jones’ but the haughty iciness is supplanted by pastel insinuation. The jaunty Kings Road beat of ‘Watching You Naked’ is a highlight, with a hint of French goddess Zazie, one of this site’s Most Admired.
Dead Kennedys song ‘Too Drunk’ is spun out to a great reception. The Buzzcocks ‘Orgasm Addict’ is set to soft waves of wahwah guitar chording. Guitar man Roger wrote ‘Under My Skin’ and it works a treat, Blondie soaked in vinegar at heart but nonetheless delivered with charm and punch. Towards the end of the set the band’s work on backing vocals is warming up the arrangements.
Returning for another punk song switched into a bossa nova and then finally the Brel-ish new number ‘Too Much’, Marina leaves the audience happy at a worthwhile show. Something different, working well