Yann Tiersen's Live Je Ne Sais Quoi
Known primarily in the U.S. for scoring Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 2001 blockbuster film Amelie, Tiersen continues combating a reputation built on delicate piano tunes tailored for a quirky girl's misadventures even though that doesn't reflect the composer's musical prowess. He has an undeniable cinematic flair to everything he touches, and his shows are no exception.
My friend Julie concisely summed up supporting French act Piano Chat when she shouted over his guttural yelps, "That's a lot of sound for a little man!" The one-man-everything kicked off the show by looping guitar, synthesizer, and drums to create writhing, breathing, and (sometimes screaming) songs from individual riffs. He played with all the ardor of a practicing garage band, frequently pausing to ask the audience, "Do you want to dance?"
Behind the opener's bombast lies obvious talent for multiple instruments and a genuine showmanship. His basic model was 30- to 90-second sound bytes and a thick French accent that kept him from a running discourse with the audience. Clearly, though, he was engaged and wanted us as active participants. He ended the set with his only song sung in French, jumping down into the audience to enlist it as a backing chorale.
Giant letters splashed onto the stage screen one-by-one, "P-A-L-E-S-T-I-N-E," as Yann Tiersen and his fivepiece backing band took the stage with the opening song of the same name. An animated cover of new album Skyline danced behind the band each time it played from his latest, as if to say, "Pay attention to this stuff." There was good reason for it.
Performances from Tiersen's latest, including "Monuments" and "I'm Gonna Live Anyhow," take his roaming soundscapes and compress them into something more dense, more ready for the stage. Armed with every four-to-six string instrument you could name, the bandleader switched from ukulele to mandolin to guitar and back again, ignoring the ivory keys that made him famous in place of a Moog synth. Tiersen provided deft guitar and sparse vocals, shying away from the microphone when he wasn't belting into it.
By the end of the show, Dos Equis beer bottles littered the stage, the band's glass-bottle remedy for a previous night at a Dallas karaoke bar, Tiersen confessed, but overall the Brittany native had a no-nonsense approach to his largely whimsical progressive rock.
His final instrument switch to violin towards the end of the 75-minute set was the piece-de-resistance, as his frantic, punchy staccato calmed into trilled runs pulled across the strings, hypnotizing the unmoving crowd in front of the stage while reaching all the way back to those resting on the bleachers.