Live Music + Gig Reviews

Paris Motel @ Metro, London

14 February 2006

Metro is red and black. Being inside this place is a little like being a character in a Nick Cave nightmare. All to the good then that, after an assortment of inoffensive indie acts cleared the stage, headliners Paris Motel, the construct of singer-violinist Amy May, took to the stage and before long were paying homage to the greatest Australian ever to live in Sydenham.

Paris Motel is utterly unlike any other act you’ll see in a venue like this. Occupying a precarious fencepost between contemporary classical and acoustic indie pop, Amy May’s music is unlikely to appeal to anyone obsessed with this week’s 465 new, must-have spiky guitar bands. This is music for connoisseurs of something rather less ordinary.

But first there was time to drink in the sight of a band that was really more of an orchestra. Around May – looking both ravishing and in effortless charge – was possibly the largest band she could fit on the Metro’s stage. She’s been known to run to 45 piece orchestras already in this early stage of her career, but tonight something like 13 seemed like a lucky number, with all the strings represented alongside a rhythm section and keyboards.

Opening with a montage of I Lost My Heart and Philippe, Philippe, both from well-received debut EP 071, May’s music was in stark contrast to the inoffensive yet scarcely captivating indie wannabes who’d occupied her stage earlier in the evening.

Cave’s biggest hit, much to his horror, was his top five duet with Kylie, Where Wild Roses Grow. Tonight the song was May’s own and Metro has surely never heard anything so sublime. Expressive strings and May singing Kylie’s part in duet with her guitarist made for a beguiling experience. It was plain this was not a novice band. Clearly, everyone on this stage were consummate musicians in their own right. That May has harnessed them all in her project is testament, surely, to her talent and vision.

When her own material returned to the fore the influences were obvious. Mr Splitfoot is her very own Red Right Hand, and it’s clear that here is a lady who has a thing for Mr Cave. May’s voice, though, brings out none of the horror of Cave’s – rather her instrument has a woozy, Sunday breakfast feel to it. Homely, even. Red Right Hand sung like it’s a lovely song for all the family? That’s scary.

Next, May let slip more of her influences. We were treated to a Medley of I Get Along Without You Very Well (Billie Holiday), Building On Fire (Talking Heads), Waltz No 2 (Elliott Smith) and May’s own Mr Blue. It needs to be noted that a full set of her own material would be expected had there been an album in circulation, but May is still working on that debut delivery. In the meantime, it seems she’s having fun with her favourites.

The set headed towards conclusion with the wispy if peculiarly titled 071, and Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow, complete with strings flourish. The audience brayed for more. The trouble for Amy May right now is, she’s set the bar sky high. With performances as captivating as this one, she’s going to have to produce more original material, and soon, to satisfy her growing number of admirers. The good news is, she’s exquisitely capable of doing so. Roll on the album.

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More on Paris Motel
Paris Motel @ Bush Hall, London
Paris Motel @ Metro, London