Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Libertines @ Zénith, Paris - September 30, 2014

When it comes to their live shows, we have to hand it to the Libertines. For such a legendary gang of fuck-ups they don't fuck around. This is probably them making amends on promises they never delivered or finally cashing in on a decade of literally wasted opportunities but they came here with something to prove. And in 25 songs (including eleven from their classic debut) and over two hours of show they proved it: the Libertines are no fluke. They are a great rock and roll band, and now they're dependable. 

After years of sub-par performances, cancellations, no-shows, arrests etc. they have finally risen to the challenge. Hopefully it's not too late... I love a great redemption story and hopefully this one ends on a happy note. 

Sure, you can see the cracks. Pete is not looking good, but Carl is in control. Egos come out, especially when they have to share a mic. Or when they feel the need to play a Babyshambles song. It's not easy being the flag-bearer of a generation., just ask the Gallagher brothers. But in the end the Libertines win. 

Punks, romantics, junkies, brothers. And now, for the first time, professional musicians. This generation had such hopes invested in you. Just don't let them down again.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ms. Lauryn Hill @ Zénith, Paris - September 13, 2014

It's been close to two decades since Lauryn Hill's only solo studio album The Miseducation of Lauryn was released. In that time lapse she has managed to alienate her former bandmates The Fugees, most of her fan base, the record industry and the US government.

She is now embarking on an apology tour destined to show she can still be a reliable and viable force in the music business, and one thing's for sure: she's got her work cut out for her.

Her Paris date falls on the same day as a festival headlining set by Scorpions (no audience overlap there) and more importantly Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the Stade de France, which may explain the sparsity of the crowd.

After the DJ opening the show was done with his set, it would be another hour before Ms. Lauryn Hill, as she now insists on being called, deigned to grace us with her presence. The band had already been playing for ten minutes, and things were starting to groove. Unfortunately the second she opened her mouth, it was a disaster.

Her voice was hoarse, often off-key, and fancying herself a James Brown-style bandleader she kept signalling the band to change the tempos or segue into other numbers, rendering her songs unrecognisable.

Thankfully, this didn't last long and she returned with an acoustic guitar for a short solo set that should have been the format for the entire evening. Her voice miraculously reappeared, and she finally started to convey some emotion. Unfortunately, that was short-lived and the band came back later to butcher some Fugees hits and a few Bob Marley classics.

By the time she capped off the show with a decent version of Doo-Wop (That Thing), one couldn't help but feel sorry for this immensely talented artist whose personal failings stood in the way of her delivering on the promises of her early career.

The music business is full of stories of redemption. Iggy Pop, for example, managed to re-build himself and his career after hitting rock bottom and squandering every inch of good will. It can be done. But not as long as she keeps pulling half-assed performances like this one.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Maceo Parker @ Cité de la Musique, Paris - September 4, 2014

"Maceo! I Want You To Blow!" This is how the Godfather of Soul used to exhort young Maceo to take one of his funky choruses, and if he didn't comply or if he ever got it wrong there was no telling what would happen. But that would never happen, because Maceo Parker is a human metronome. That's not to say he is robotic, in fact his groove knows no equal.

Malted Milk @ Cité de la Musique, Paris - September 4, 2014