Front and middle is a sword, dull, silvery and old. No explanation is given to its significance (although devotees may well recognise it from the album artwork), but its long slender profile sparks associations with the fabled Oscar statue, which in itself is held aloft, a symbol of triumph for the victor in combat. The European actress, unmistakable with her dark tousled locks and air of sophistication and intrigue, stakes her claim from out of the darkness, to the right of the stage, as wolf whistles and cheers ring out. Her face may be obscured but her silhouette is illuminated by an array of large arabesque lanterns spread across the room. A steady stream of black clad players follow suit, lining up in two neat rows, a chorus line of liminal misfits or a musical army ready to attack.
It’s apparent that the lighting has been tastefully choreographed, this evening, to achieve maximum visual impact. There are to be no unflattering green lights or awkward angles. The musicians assembled will have no hierarchy or blind spot, they will be foregrounded, remain almost static in repose, extras waiting for further direction. Brilliant white searchlights scan the crowd stopping occasionally on slack jawed faces, as they crane necks, trying to catch a glimpse of the Star amidst the gloom. A soft glow starts to rise, just like honey, from behind the front line as a strident riff takes form, a tambourine slaps against thigh and a manifesto is stridently dictated. The cavernous drums begin their death drive and the action has begun.
Each song appears to be playing out its scene on its own particular sound stage. On Dreams they conjure a swarm of imaginary tumbleweeds that blow through the hall, and the actress pulls focus as she summons the ghost of a young Bardot striding across the one horse town as the sonic landscape opens up around her. The chorus of the number is littered with suitably ye-ye nonchalance and some desert twang, as the guitars fire shots across the horizon. For Last Picture Show we suddenly find ourselves transported a grimy city of towering skyscrapers, stolen conversations and thick highway smog that threatens to choke the viewer. When the scene switches and Shiny Shiny commences, the background blurs once more to reveal a black and white nightclub or factory, replete with drag queens and artists all clad in boots of leather. Une Lune Etrange threatens to become a creature feature, as it snarls and pouts but thankfully, we are spared a twist ending as this moon shows no bitter streak, and the howling quickly subsides.
As we watch this movie unfold with its familiar tropes, you realise it’s not quite a sequel or remake, more of an commendable adaptation, one that thankfully never finds itself lost in translation. We don’t mind at all, in fact we came here because we loved the original so. You know, that Underground smash, featuring a gang of crazy young Americans and one plucky Brit, with a cameo early on from a beautiful Teutonic femme fatale. She doesn’t make it to The End sadly (in fact she didn’t make it much past Sunday Morning) but she gave it a shot in the arm, some notoriety and a cult following that grew over the years. Many people tried remaking it, hoping to capture some of what made it great but they were mainly Playing With Fire. Tonight L’Épée harnessed that flame and as the lanterns spun faster and faster, they made the pictures come alive.