Live Reviews

Sébastien Tellier @ ICA, London

23 July 2006

How many press-ups must a man complete before youcall him a man? Why must smoke get in your nose? Willlipstick on your monitor tell on you? And furthermore,was prog a doughnut?< /B>

Alas, none of these vital questions would truly getanswered by Sébastien Tellier’s strangely ill-attendedperformance at the imperiously-monickered Institute OfContemporary Arts. C’est la vie.

Judging by the lack of true believers at saidvenue, its probably fair to say that Parisian Sebis a man who needs an introduction. Butsomething so conventional just would only hold adistorted mirror to a performance that was either theinscrutable work of (steady now!) mad genius,or the result of an evening’s ingestion of deadlylager pints.

It was easy to read last year’s Politics album as arushed attempt to get Tellier product onto the marketto a world still unswayed by single track downloads.The sighing glory of signature tune La Ritournelleensnared all who came into ear-‘ole orbit, but theremore than a just a frisson of swiftly-upgradeddemo’s to pad out proceedings.

Not one to miss a promotional opportunity when theysee one, the good people at label Lucky Numbers havethought to call his forthcoming album Universe. Thoseahead of me will have already clicked that such is thetitle of Seb’s contribution to Daft Punk‘s newmovie-thing Electroma. And its with Universe, thatTellier kicks off this ‘concert’.

And a beautiful thing it is too. With just theDevo-attired Simon Dalmais (brother ofCamille, doncha know) for company on a trustyYamaha (keyboard, not motor cycle – it wasn’t thatmental). Seb sings with the torchy sincerity of a manwith the Billie Holliday blues. Hippy hair andvagabond beard may exaggerate his receding hairline,but this is a man with nothing to hide and everythingto share.

Except his fags. Which is just as well really,considering Seb harbours a penchant for sticking theold death sticks four-square up his hooter. This is aman who truly wants to take you through the smokerings of his mind.

Maybe the lurch in contrast from the sublime to theridiculous isn’t great for building up a momentum, butin Seb’s world those two concepts go together likebop-shoo-bop-rama-lama-ding-dong.

After regaling us with some hard-to-decipherpronunciations on the state of jazz, Seb found sometime to rattle off a few urgent press-ups. Not bad. Inthe ’70’s they would have called him an all-roundentertainer. Although contemporary cynics may haveadded some more choice epithets.

And only Seb could have taken us so gently into thepleasure and pain of sweet regret that constitutesBroadway before abruptly following it up with a kindof screechy prog parping that Keith Emersonmight have thought a tad excessive.

In another mercifully brief prog excursion, wefound Seb just a couple of octaves away from someFocus-like melismatic yodelling. Perhaps it wasan effort to prove that his Dad really was inMagma. A Dutch too much in anyone’slanguage.

In the interim, Tellier gave us ‘a song for Frenchpeople’, a subdued Tony Allen-lessWonderafrica, a naturally anticipated La Ritournelle,and finally, most affectingly, a bare Fantino. Itshould be added that before Seb reached the sign-off,he managed to aqueeze him a little more spontaneousworking-out, nasal cigs, and some peculiar -relatively speaking, of course – snogging ofloudspeakers.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you SebastienTellier. But be careful, wed like him back.

buy Sébastien Tellier MP3s or CDs
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More on Sébastien Tellier
Sébastien Tellier – My God Is Blue
Sébastien Tellier – Sexuality
Sébastien Tellier @ Rough Trade East, London
Sébastien Tellier – Universe
Sébastien Tellier @ ICA, London

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