After the excellent first evening of the Culture Box Festival, we have to admit that not all the promises of an enticing line-up were kept last night at the Cirque d’Hiver, and that it was Balthazar who saved the night by making us dance and melt with pleasure.
Second evening of the Festival, a priori more consensual than the first, with two groups as “popular” as Wet Leg – great excitement in the French press – and Balthazar, our soulful Belgians. It’s the first part, the Irish Sinead O’Brienthat the role of representing avant-garde rock comes back tonight, and we are impatiently awaiting it, given the good things that the English press is saying about it.
7:30 p.m.: Sinead O’Brien is a beautiful young woman, elegantly dressed in green, who recites poetry, accompanied on stage this evening by two musicians – a guitarist and a drummer. She claims a classical poetic and literary inspiration (Yeats, Camus, that sort of thing), and we are inevitably intrigued by this spoken-sung bias, and by a very unusual literary ambition in Rock. And the spectrum of Patti Smith – fortunately still there – should normally come to haunt the set… And then no, in fact: where the great Patti had an impressive stage presence, the young woman lacks too much charisma to impose her texts. But the biggest problem, quickly obvious, is that all the songs sound the same, and the more the set progresses, the more boredom wins us. We’re a little ashamed to say that, but without understanding the lyrics enough, it’s hard to cling to anything substantial. The “accompaniment” music is not uninteresting, it does not sometimes lack vigor, but this impression of having to deal with only one single and interminable same recited text quickly weighs down the atmosphere. Snooze guaranteed!
8:30 p.m.: we came above all to Wet Leg tonight, but let’s be honest, the disappointment is going to be severe. The first fault is a very bad sound, the worst of the two days of the festival, which deprives us most of the time of Rhyan’s voice, which, everyone will agree, is a problem for this kind of music. In addition, Rhyan seems to completely laugh at the public, with whom she will have absolutely no interaction, and the only times when we will see her smile a little will be when she is having fun with her accomplice Hester. It is still surprising to see such a young group show no visible desire to play, to share their music. This 40-minute set finally turns out to be dull, without much relief, slowed down even by a few rather weak compositions which already weighed down the album. The last three titles find the energy that was missing until then, but do not completely win over us: the piercing cries of Rhian on Ur Mum seem artificial, the sequence with Angelica especially emphasizes its similarity with the previous song, and even Lounge Chair will only amaze us moderately tonight. Tomorrow evening, at the Point Éphémère, we’ll see if Wet Leg make up for the bad impression created by these 40 minutes without life…
10:15 p.m .: a little too much waiting, beyond the normal time for installing the group’s equipment, before Balthazar, a group from which we no longer expected much, invests the stage. They will however catch up on their own this evening well off to a bad start. By offering us an hour of an extremely professional concert – perhaps even too much, because we are never really happy – and dispensing refined, even sweet pleasures… These 10 impeccable songs that we must recognize from them, all interpreted with great care, are often stretched out for the immediate pleasure of rehearsal and dancing, benefit from this extra soul that one expects from live: we appreciate the superb melodies (Grapefruitupsetting him Bunker), the masterful vocals, not only of Jinte and Maarten but of all the musicians, and the always sensitive and relevant orchestration (with special mention to the trombone of Tijs!). On the other hand, we must note that Balthazar has given up on Rock and now delivers a purely soulful set with subtlety and restraint. Even the awesome Fever which will set the circus on fire, no longer takes off as it once did. Balthazar evolves, we may or may not like their new orientation, but last night they were synonymous with pleasure.
See you next year, Culture Box!
Photos and text: Eric Debarnot
Wet Leg: rock, pop, effrontery and seriousness!