Live Music + Gig Reviews

Sébastien Tellier @ Rough Trade East, London

20 February 2008

Sébastien Tellier

Sébastien Tellier

Is a record store gig a fair way of appraising a performer? Increasingly so, it seems. Radiohead‘s much publicised show of generosity at Rough Trade East proved so popular they had to decamp over the road to 93 Feet East. No such issues for Sébastien Tellier, as tickets had been organised in advance – a shame, then that not much else had been.

Had the invited audience been given a disclaimer that stated an hour in sub-zero temperatures on a freezing pavement would also be involved, they might have thought twice about the event – or at least, taken the trouble to pop round the corner for a quick curry while they waited. So it was up to Monsieur Tellier to warm the cockles of the heart once inside.

He didn’t disappoint, with music that matched the effortless cool he projected from the stage. Dressed in white with biblical facial hair and sunglasses, he wasn’t easy to miss – and barely needed to move as his loping, softly funky basslines pursued a steady tread.

New album Sexuality was the focus, and posters of the 1970s-influenced ‘erotica as art’ cover festooned the shop. The music lived up to its billing, and by opening with the Daft Punk-in-slow-motion Kilometer spread a feel good vibe around the crowd. The influence of Prince was never far from hand, and Tellier’s slower music drew sharp comparisons with Purple Rain both in tempo and his use of the guitar.

The frontman’s relaxed banter with the audience revealed an easygoing sense of humour. “Both my mum and dad were born in London”, he said at one point, “which is why I consider myself not to be as much French as Angliche”. There was never any doubt though, and as the sunglasses went over the head again the sidekicks on keyboard and drum machine launched into a highly enjoyable Divine, its stabbing synths vintage 1980s music.

Tellier went on to perform an unaccompanied version of La Ritournelle, and it was nice to note the audience enjoyed the sotto voce vocals in complete silence. Maybe they were still frozen to the bone – but it’s more likely that Tellier had worked his easy charm to good effect. With more live dates to come in April, catch him if you can.

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