Live at De Casino, Sint-Niklaas - Belgium - 05.05.2018Concert
24/05/2018, Kris TIECK
Artists By Nature Back For Festival Summer
One of the most original, playful and rhythmic bands from France, Europe and even the world has decided to tour again and to visit Flanders and Holland in April and May for that reason. Les Négresses Vertes… wasn’t that those punks in costumes with their mix of rock, chanson and world music? Sort of… Because Music rebought their back catalogue and rereleased the four studio albums of the band, also on LP. And they wanted to celebrate that in the best way. The idea was launched, they talked… et voilà. At the end of February their secretly prepared tour was started carefully with three shows in Wallonia. In the end there were more than eighty dates fixed and there are still new shows being added to the list. The interest in this band remains big and rightfully so. That the poet and parttime clown from the 19th arrondissement of Paris isn’t present anymore because of death is known. His cheeky lyrics and first fellow bandmembers, for a good part, still are. Those that remember the record sleeve of debut Mlah (1988), to which the tour’s being dedicated, know that they were a numerous family. The first two drummers and accordionist Canavese have been replaced for this tour and also the pianist/multi-instrumentalist already left a long time ago. That still makes five of the original gang joining in: the Mellino’s, the brothers Paulus (or Paulo and Sirinix) and also film maker Ochowiak aka Twist. Mlah roughly means ‘it’s okay’ in Arabian slang and was a good indication for the musical ode the band brings to the diversity in Paris and suburbs.
An old friend’s visit
Having outgrown the Paris’ subway and the flea market of Saint-Ouen, it went fast upwards for Négresses Vertes. That changed suddenly with the disappearing of their figure-head. The rise has been stopped since then but the pleasure in music and life of the band members hasn’t. The fervour may have gone away or become less but the fire, the accordion melodies, the southern guitar rhythms and the trumpet and trombone blowing – what made them so unique – are still present. However it must be noted that the impressive percussion of the debut is missing. New drummer Rabaté often plays a serious beat and Iza Mellino does her trick well but only a tambourine or shakers are not a match for the original hand rhythm section. It might be the reason the pace in their show has weakened a bit. Besides that, replacing the astute frontman Helno is a nearly impossible task. The Négresses solved it again among themselves and that certainly was and is the most noble choice. The loss of the inspiration and counter-balance that street rascal Helno gave to the other singer (and also guitarist) Mellino and the members after all caused a creative impoverishment with the band, ultimately performing until the beginning of 2002.
Gathered around a common no future-sentiment, the first but also second album stood full of realistic and dark pessimistic songs despite the cheerful folk sounds. A brilliant paradox so to say! Maybe therefore current accordionist Cizzko started their magnificent Valse out of the dark. Following immediately was a line thrown out to those others tormented by life, the fishermen, with their anthem Pas La Mer À Boire. The song started out a bit slowly but what ingenious lyrics and accordion melody! The merry Voilà l’Été gets dug up every year with the first sun rays and that timing was right on here again. It’s a classic and not only with the lovers of the French chanson. Paolo on the vocals and with his little ukulele managed to give the song yet another life. The first climax also for the fans of trumpet and trombone thanks to Sirinix and Twist. Furthermore, guitar player Mellino has been touring long enough to articulate his Dutch words perfectly. Little things maybe but it feeds the good vibes. The concert needed some time – let’s say as with the visit of an old friend – but once loose it went swinging from Orane with its mysterious arabic (electric) tones and completed by organ over Hey Maria, a complaint against suicide, to Mellino’s equally rhythmic L’Homme Des Marais which made the party explode for the first time. An ode to love but surrounded by a swamp, what did you expect? While most of the songs were played on a classic and acoustic guitar the band moulded Les Yeux De Ton Père in a more modern rock jacket with Mellino on electric guitar, Cizzko on portable keyboard and Paulo at vocals. Undoubtedly they know their punk classics – The Clash wasn’t far off – but it was somewhat more upbeat which yielded a lot of applause.
On Les Rablablas Mellino and Cizzko, reunited with his Parisian trademark, threw themselves – not for the last time - enthusiastically to the front of the stage near or under the fans. And during the close of Zobi, in fact a genuine post-punk manifest, trombonist Sirinix this time played for living fly that fears to be crushed. You don’t have to sing perfectly if you have a sense for the song but what a vibrating atmosphere! With Mellino driving the rhythm as a worthy gypsy king and finishing it off solo. As for show and artistry he and his ‘copains’ don’t need lessons. While they’re in their fifties they even more resemble a travelling musical street theatre group. In the encores that same man soloed in the beautifully shady Face À La Mer after which he picked the melancholic sounding slow Hasta Llegar on his Spanish guitar, supported by Paulo and his familiar bass. Also Les Mégots, a somewhat slow song from the same record, showed up. Only for a real festival band to make a ska version of it and that’s when the trombone plays a leading role while Ochowiak took over the bass. And even rapping wasn’t lost to the Parisians. They used it to wrap around the public and their final song Soleil De Bodega. That was the absolute climax of the evening with the whole crowd on fire at the southern flamenco rumba guitar rhythms. Conclusion: musically maybe a little less perfect and sharp, it’s obvious that Négresses Vertes remain artists by nature with a big joie-de-vivre, with strong danceable folk songs with a twist. At the same time they’re punks that don’t give a damn about likes on the internet. No, they prefer to play music! Who missed them in Sint-Niklaas, Rijkevorsel or Leuven: don’t panic, in Belgium you can still see them in August at Dranouter, the Brussels Summer Festival and in Namur (Festival Des Solidarités). La fête, mlah!
Setlist: La Valse/ C'est Pas La Mer À Boire/ Voilà l'Été/ La Faim Des Haricots/ Orane/ Hey Maria/ L'Homme Des Marais/ La Danse Des Négresses Vertes/Il/Marcelle Ratafia
/ Les Yeux De Ton Père/ Les Rablablas Les Roubliblis/ Zobi La Mouche
Encore 1: Face A La Mer/ Hasta Llegar/ Les Mégots
Encore 2: Sous Le Soleil De Bodega
HA:PEOPLE 355 • One Bear, Two Bicycles And One Xylophone
FERAL BODY • Chain Ritual
ORNAMENTI D'ORO • Mater Tenebrarum
STRUCK9 • Ritual Body Music
CONSPIRACY COVEN • Conspiracy Coven
PAULINA CASSIDY • Drawing Up A Storm
RITUAL VEIL • Wolf In The Night
DER HAUPTMANN • (2017) German-Polish-French biographical drama, black & white, directed by Robert Schwentke based on true facts.
ABYSS X • Pleasures Of The Bull