Standing watching Yann Tiersen’s Concorde 2 performance, one observation looms large. The British don’t dance. The French, they dance. They’re all around me, groups of French people, moving themselves without a hint of awkwardness or self-loathing to pretty much every note played out. Us Brits, we’re just standing there, eyes fixed forward and limbs held fast.
Perhaps we weren’t expecting songs that made us move. But then, a fair few people this evening didn’t seem to know quite what to expect at all: Tiersen has made a habit of confounding expectations for his live shows, veering from orchestras to accordions, minimalism to bombast.
Tonight favored the latter, Tiersen heading up a six-piece band on a stage laden with drums and cymbals, synths and guitars. Drawing heavily on recently-released seventh album Skyline, it’s a set heavy on shoegazed distortion and melodic space, projectors behind eking out images of sparse environments and industrial landscapes. He’s shared producers with M83 and it shows, Tiersen’s often-effected vocals a texture scratched over a swell of synth-lines and unconventional instrumentation.
An early Another Shore sets the tone, its fragile glockenspiel intro soon supplanted by a wall of noise like a storm passing through. It’s a powerful and bracing if slightly numbing template: several songs in it’s difficult to quite discern where the tracks end and the tinnitus begins, although eccentricities such as the spelt-out words of Palestine keep our interest buoyed, political commentary by way of Sesame Street.
A highpoint comes, ironically, when the sound strips back, Tiersen’s bandmates temporarily retreating as he takes up his violin, his considerable skill hushing the venue to a jealous silence. And there is a lot that’s impressive here, from the absurd variety of instruments to the sheer confidence with which the band move from pop to post-rock, crowd-pleasing to the avant-garde.
The shadow of Amelie still haunts the room, however, and even ten years on the soundtrack remains the work that defines him. The calls are infrequent but hang like fog regardless, and when Tiersen shrugs them off – ‘I don’t play songs that I no longer like’ – the disappointment is palpable. But it’s short-lived, quickly dissipated in a third-act that sees tracks such as Skyline closer Vanishing Point bulked up and expanded and veering close to club material, the sound untethered and the stage alive with motion.
They end with a cover of Gary Numan’s Cars, the melody drawn from Tiersen’s violin. And suddenly even the French have stopped, skin glistening but eyes now fixed forward, until the stage goes dark.