sun 15/09/2019

Nouvelle Vague, Islington Assembly Hall review - the dreamy bossa nova collective return | reviews, news & interviews

Nouvelle Vague, Islington Assembly Hall review - the dreamy bossa nova collective return

Nouvelle Vague, Islington Assembly Hall review - the dreamy bossa nova collective return

Producers Olivier Libaux and Marc Collin's French phenomenon gives the audience what it wants

C'est chic: Élodie Frégé and Mélanie Pain of Nouvelle VagueGraham Hilling

When you’re off to Islington’s beautiful Assembly Hall for an evening of slinky French bossa nova, it’s something of a surprise to find the Gallic groovers preceded by a droll Brummie singer who brings to mind a cross between Billy Bragg and Richard Hawley. But it turns out that Matthew Edwards, who boldly steps out on stage armed only with an acoustic guitar and a dry wit, is the perfect way to begin tonight’s evening. Edwards’ set – featuring everything from a song about "being murdered by a French actress" to an unexpected spot of yodelling – goes down well with the crowd, and then it’s time to slip into something more slinky.

Nouvelle Vague’s set begins in a pleasingly understated fashion, with their cover of Visage’s "Fade to Grey" building from a guitar and two keyboards on stage. Singers Mélanie Pain and Élodie Frégé make their appearance by weaving through the crowd from the back of the room, before emerging on stage to delighted applause. It’s an effective opener and quite mesmerising – all flickering shadows, artfully tasteful lighting and a pulsating, underlying beat. Then, after a cover of New Order’s "Bizarre Love Triangle" – less compelling, more workmanlike – it’s time for one of Nouvelle Vague’s more recent cross-genre forays. Frégé takes the lead for a bizarre, cartoonishly sexy rendition of the Ramones classic "I Wanna Be Sedated", which provokes a chuckle or two in the audience upon recognition. It’s slow, sultry and weird but mostly works – and Frégé has a lot of fun high-kicking and pouting her way through it. "Ever Fallen in Love" picks up the pace and gets the crowd moving, before cheers welcome the Dead Kennedys cover "Too Drunk to Fuck", from Nouvelle Vague’s 2004 album with singer Camille.

Pain and Frégé’s voices complement each other nicely – the former smoky and sweet, the latter more throaty and sultry – and each singer gets her turn in the spotlight. Pain takes the lead for a sublime "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" – how can the words ‘et cetera’ sound so cool – before Frégé vamps it up with a swampy cover of the Cramps’ "Human Fly", much to the crowd’s delirious delight. Frege also scores a direct hit with "Blister in the Sun", and Pain’s "Guns of Brixton" is met with sighs of joy. And one of their most famous covers – Joy Division’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart" – gets the audience all riled up when Frégé turns the mike on the audience and lets the song build to a frenzy.

It’s not all a success – an encore of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" starts well but turns into a bit of a syrupy, sickly slow mess, and "Friday Night Saturday Morning" drags along dully – but there's enough wit and sparkle to lift the evening. In their 15th year, Marc Collin and Oliver Libaux know what they’re doing by now – and this show, the second of two nights in Islington, really proves that Nouvelle Vague are a band who come into their own in a live setting.

Pain and Frégé’s voices complement each other nicely – the former smoky and sweet, the latter more throaty and sultry

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Thank you Ms.Porter. Apparently I am droll? x

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.