Review: Nouvelle Vague, Birmingham Town Hall

Nouvelle Vague live were as beautiful and as stylish as the venue they played in.

The French band returned to Birmingham’s Town Hall following the release of their fifth album I Could Be Happy.

A pleasantly surprising start to the evening was delivered courtesy of London-Paris singer Tim Keegan who enamoured himself to the crowd with protest song ‘To Russia With Gloves’ – a song about a transsexual goalkeeper playing in the upcoming Russian World Cup.

More surprises followed at the start of the headliner’s set. Nouvelle Vague guitarist Olivier Libaux and keyboard player Marc Collin entered a darkened stage to started the title track of their last album, whilst singers Liset Alea and Mélanie Pain made their entrance from the back of the half-filled room, singing their way down the two side aisles.

The vocal performance from Alea on tracks by The Buzzcocks and The Smiths – reimagined in the band’s trademark Bossa-Nova style – was enchanting and her stylish, sultry dance expression was reminiscent of opening credits from classic James Bond films.

Encouraged by Alea asking in her delicate French accent “Are you ready Birmingham?” the crowd were soon propelled to their feet by an upbeat, clap-along version of Depeche Mode ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’.

A few more tracks later and singer Mélanie Pain reminded the audience, “Yes, we are French!” before delivering a version of ‘La Pluie et le Beau Temps’ in her native tongue.

The band ended their first set with a cover of The Cramps’ ‘Human Fly’ before leaving the stage, the crowd expectant of a return.

After a brief pause and encouragement from the modest but keen audience, the band returned with a completely reconstructed version of ‘The Killing Moon’ by Echo and the Bunnymen. Perhaps an odd choice for an encore but what it lacked in tempo and excitement it made up for in captivation and wonder.

The set was brought to a climactic end with a cover of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Following a number of verses and choruses, the audience was led into rounds of the chorus line (and title) for what seemed an enjoyable eternity.

Such a well-delivered show deserved a better attendance, however, all that attended will have gone home in the knowledge they witnessed a slick, captivating show full of beauty and quirk.

Words: Dave Breeze

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