Live Review: Yann Tiersen
Venue: Junction, Cambridge
Date: 13th May 2009
Best known for the charming melodies that accompanied the film Amélie you’d be forgiven for being a bit taken aback at Yann Tiersen’s performance tonight. I certainly was expecting something a lot mellower and thoughtful than the heavy rock vibe that Tiersen decided to present to the packed out Junction.
Leaving his accordion at home (a surprise given how heavy the instrument features in a lot of his studio works, embracing his passions for chanson and musette waltz) Tiersen has instead decided to bring a full-on rock band to the stage, adapting and altering his whimsical works to provide a rougher edge.
It’s a strange decision. You can sense in the audience that the choice to take a heavier (some might say generic) route has left them feeling somewhat disappointed, a sentiment best supported by the enthusiasm of the applause when the band fall back and Tiersen performs alone with his violin for an attention grabbing rendition of ‘Sur Le Fil’. From the various French shouts coming from the audience tonight you get the impression that to be here tonight some people had quite a way to come, so to be forced to stand through something completely unexpected is slightly galling.
But whilst some grumbles could be raised about the genre he chooses to stick to, the performance was fairly faultless. There’s some interesting moments where they get a little bit too far up their own arses (such as the bizarre book reading, accompanied by the band) but Tiersen and his cohorts remain interesting to watch, as they seemingly struggle to control the tide of the music. It’s a much more energetic performance than I was expecting perhaps, both in person and sound, as some tracks just increase in pressure until they’re not too far off from exploding completely. Things are heavy, and yet Tiersen still finds moments to explore his love for various different instruments, including a very welcome kazoo.
In a live environment I’d say that Tiersen came off as an exciting, powerful act, grabbing your attention much more than the somewhat dated material on his aforementioned albums has a right to. There are moments of theremin-inspired madness that fill the room’s sound out tonight, as opposed to sounding like the soundtrack of an 80’s schlock horror. You’ll note that I’ve struggled to inform you of what tracks made the cut, and that’s because I’d never really listened to Tiersen’s work in the past (no, I still haven’t seen Amélie, I’m just not that indie) but from an outsider’s perspective the concert was a positive introduction to his work. His only trouble tonight is keeping the fans that have followed him throughout his career happy, because plans might have backfired on that one.