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[Live Report] Alex Henry Foster & The Long Shadows at Supersonic Records: “Love! Love! Love!”

Alex Henry Foster playing two nights in Paris is something exceptional: the Quebec Rock star, accompanied by his Long Shadows, offers us very long recitative sets, emotionally charged, both intense and potentially… boring for who does not share his delirium. In any case, a unique experience!

Alex Henry Foster at Supersonic Records – Photo: Eric Debarnot

Evening event at the Supersonic, which has also moved for a few days to the premises adjacent to the record store, due to sound improvement work in the room: Alex Foster and its crazy Quebecers The Long Shadows are in Paris, and this passage to the Supersonic follows an evening which we were depicted as epic, the day before, at the Zèbre de Belleville (2h40 of set, it’s almost Springsteenian!…). It is therefore necessary to come very early, at least two hours before the start of the concert, to ensure access, and the very pleasant little room, very air-conditioned – even too much, beware of colds! – is quickly filled. The set itself was brought forward almost an hour to allow time for the band. An additional particularity this evening: with its 6 musicians and very impressive equipment, the small triangular stage of the Supersonic Records is not enough, and Alex and his two guitarists are installed on the floor: it’s perfect for proximity (well, for those who are no longer afraid of exchanging body fluids, as Alex will jokingly say…) but not ideal for visibility if you haven’t secured the front row. Otherwise, the sound will be absolutely perfect, and the lights much more acceptable than those of the main hall…

8:40 p.m.: it’s Sef Lemelin, one of the guitarists of the group who opens the evening – we can’t really speak of a first part… – with 15 short instrumental minutes, not uninteresting, a kind of post rock paradoxically placed on a background of electronics. Unfortunately, a large and noisy band of restless, probably very alcoholic, who will rage all evening, prevents the concentration which is necessary to appreciate this original work.

2022 08 04 Alex Henry Foster Supersonic

9:20 p.m.: Alex Henry Fosterminiature format troublemaker, starts a set that will last (only!) 2h10, which must be an absolute record for the Supersonic: we start with a long Opening in the form of an abstract sound chaos of about fifteen minutes, which, somewhere, lays the foundations of the evening.

The music ofAlex Foster solo – finally it’s a bit unfair to call it such, given the importance of the five musicians who accompany it, but it must be separated from that, triumphant, of his ex-group Your Favorite Enemiesmore “normal” rock – it’s a particular concept: Alex, we know he was very inspired by a whole bunch of classical poets (Baudelaire, Rilke) and modern (Kerouac, Ginsberg), recites his texts more than he sings them, on a soundtrack that is both shapeless and regularly intense… As if he had chosen to keep from a Rock concert only the moments of stasis – when the music suspends during a piece to increase the tension – and those of paroxysm, by removing all the rest, structure, melody, verses and refrains: well, we exaggerate a little, but barely. If we had to look for similar things to explain our approach to people who have never heard of it, we could say that we are between the Nick Cave (a claimed influence) from the beginnings of the Bad Seeds and Patti Smith and its long, somewhat hippie beaches.

2022 08 04 Alex Henry Foster SupersonicAlex embodies on stage, with an undeniable passion, his long texts – written on a notebook placed in front of him on his small keyboard. He constantly plays on an emotional tension that rises and falls, he only lets the music explode briefly, and always in an abstract way, never really liberating. Like a game with the expectations of the public and also with the codes of the intensity of a usual rock concert. It’s sometimes gripping, fascinating, but in the end it gives an impression of standing still which is both interesting (original…) but which seems quite interminable, on pieces which each reach around twenty minutes. Moreover, after an hour, part of the public withdrew, while the rest shouted their enthusiasm, and unfurled a banner in honor of the group and of Quebec. To our taste, the superb TheHunter will be the most convincing title of the evening, but everyone will undoubtedly find their way in their own way through this exhausting maze of strong emotions.

The last part of the set sees Alex engage in discussions with the public, philosophize on life after the pandemic, on the need for social ties and contact tout court, on the friendship between France and Quebec, and finally on… Love, with generosity and without fear of breaking open doors. Alex sings in the middle of his audience, climbs on the bar, asks for a whiskey (“I don’t drink, but a whiskey is not alcohol”). At the end of Shadows of our Evening Tidesa long lyrical piece which he presents as very intimate, written at the death of his father, he makes the public sing in chorus: ” Love! Love! Love! “.

An emotional experience.

Text and photos: Eric Debarnot

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