STEREOLAB + NINA SAVARY – CONCORDE 2, BRIGHTON 24.11.22
1263 days after their last performance at Brighton’s Concorde 2, art-rock legends Stereolab are back in action this evening. By my reckoning, this is their fifth performance in Brighton. Their first two were at the Pavilion Theatre on 28th October 1994 and 18th January 1988, and their third and fourth were here inside the Concorde 2 on 18th December 2008 and 11th June 2019. The Brighton & Hove News Music Team reviewed the last of these – Read our account HERE.
Not surprisingly, tonight’s gig has sold out as this Anglo-French avant-pop band are just one of those must see live acts! Their current lineup consists of founder members Lætitia Sadier (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar, percussion, trombone) and Tim Gane (guitar, keyboards). They rose out of the ashes of an indie-pop act called ‘McCarthy, which guitarist Gane had co-founded in 1985 with his schoolmates, Malcolm Eden (vocals, guitar), John Williamson (bass guitar) and Gary Baker (drums). In 1988 Gane met French born Sadier at a McCarthy gig in Paris, and they were attracted to each other, thus Sadier moved to London to pursue her music career and to be with Gane. She appeared on McCarthy’s third (and final) album ‘Banking, Violence And The Inner Life Today’ which dropped in 1990, which was the same year that Stereolab founded.
Gane and Sadier, along with future Stereolab band manager, Martin Pike, set up a record label called ‘Duophonic Super 45s’ which, along with later offshoot ‘Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks’, would become commonly known as “Duophonic”. By September 1991, Stereolab were releasing material. Gane and Sadier were a couple for fourteen years.
Also performing this evening in Stereolab is Andy Ramsay on drums. He initially joined them in 1992 until they originally called it a day back in 2009. But a decade later, (in 2019), the band reconvened, with the addition of Xavier Muñoz Guimera on bass guitar and backing vocals. Completing the lineup is Joseph Watson (on keyboards, vibraphone, backing vocals) who came on board from 2004 to 2009, and then again from 2019.
Stereolab, like The Fall before them, are renowned for their bizarre song and album titles. The tunes are sometimes sung in French instead of English and the group’s music combines influences from krautrock, lounge and 1960s pop music, often incorporating a repetitive motorik beat with heavy use of vintage electronic keyboards.
Support this evening came from Paris based artist Nina Savary who like Sadier sings in English and French. September last year she dropped her debut eleven track ‘Next Level Soap Opera’ album, which evokes the synthetic, disco mood of the late 1970s. You can check out HERE. Singer, dancer, actress and performer Savary is a musician for Laetitia Sadier, Astrobal (aka her partner Emmanuel Mario), Institut, Vivre!
Clearly performing is in Savary’s blood as she originally took to the stage at just four years of age at la Scala in Milan and also toured with her parents’ explosive and free theatre company ‘Grand Magic Circus’. According to IMDb, Savary is known for ‘Ulysses & Mona’ (2018), ‘Vertiges’ (1997) and ‘Mistinguett, la dernière revue’ (2001).
This evening however Nina was accompanied on stage at 8:16pm until 8:53pm by a trio of chaps for the duration of their 37 minute set. One of which was sporting a Astrobal cap, which led me to the conclusion that it was very likely to be her husband Emmanuel Mario. Sadly, I didn’t catch the other guys’ names.
They were lined up at the front of the stage and from our left (stage right) to the opposite end, there was one chap on a Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A49 MIDI keyboard, who switched to guitar for a couple of numbers. Next to him was Savary on lead vocals, and playing an unusual Prodipe MIDI USB Keyboard Controller 25C, as well special effects on a flat iPad looking unit, and switching to acoustic guitar when needed. Next to Savary was (I presume) Astrobal who played a Casio keyboard, Kraftwerk style flat electronic drums, tom toms, tambourine, and did backing vocals. On the far end, our right (stage left) the final guy was playing a Moog synthesizer and provided additional backing vocals, and switched over to the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A49 MIDI keyboard for their final number.
Savary informed us that they were playing songs from her ‘Next Level Soap Opera’ album. There are 11 tunes on the album, I reckon they played 9 of them, with some sung in French and some sung in English. They began with a slow number, before going on to ‘Par Millions’, which saw Savary take to the acoustic guitar and show us her operatic vocal range.
Song three, a set highlight, saw Astrobal take to the tom toms for this che che beat number which was sung in French and the chorus reminded me of the 1964 ‘Stingray’ TV show outro song ‘Aqua Marina’ sung by Gary Miller. The following number saw Astrobal take to the tambourine. Song five was also in French, and after that we had ‘Contemplating Wells’ which saw Savary creating some mighty fine Dr Who electronic sound effects courtesy of the mystery iPad, which the guy on our left switched to guitar.
The penultimate number was ‘Les Passions Tristes’ (‘The Sad Passions’) and the finale was ‘That’s Just The Way I Want It To Be’ which was a cover of a Blossom Dearie tune that was the title track from her 1970 album. This had been a chilled out set, which had highlighted Savary’s great voice. The sound was crisp and the lighting was bright and contestant throughout the performance.
Stereolab had hot footed across the border last night having played in Paris the day before and were at the sold out Concorde 2 on the opening night of the UK leg of their tour.
Their set this evening ran from 9:20pm to 10:55pm and they performed 15 or possibly 16 self-penned numbers for us. The band consisted of (from our left to our right) Tim Gane on Fender Mustang guitar; Andy Ramsay on drums and Roland drum pads; Joseph Watson on Prophet-5 Sequential analog synthesizer, Rhodes electric piano, plus a Yamaha keyboard and an Akai one, and backing vocals; sideways on to us was Lætitia Sadier on lead vocals, Fender Mustang guitar (which she plays left-handedly and upside down), small keyboard (possibly a Korg) and tambourine; and finally to the rear was Xavier Muñoz Guimera on Fender VI (six-string) bass, Fender Precision bass and shakers.
As with the support, the lighting was solid and thus all band members could clearly be seen and the sound was spot on. Throughout the whole set Tim Gane played his Mustang with his eyes closed and was moving his head from side to side, he was clearly in the groove and feeling the music.
They opened with ‘Supah Jaianto’, which can be located on their 2010 ‘Not Music’ album. This was well received by the packed, motionless, mixed age audience. Next up was the title track of their 1992 ‘Low Fi’ EP, which sounded like a slower version of The Modern Lovers ‘Roadrunner’ and was rather good. This was followed by their 2006 ‘Eye Of The Volcano’ single and the ever changing beats of 1998’s ‘Refractions In The Plastic Pulse’, which sounded like multiple tunes squeezed together. It did however contact segments of decent keyboards and Roland drum pads.
Lætitia explained that the next tune was their “Ode to Anarchy”, that being 1993’s ‘U.H.F. – MFP’. The tune was a metronomic krautrock style number and judging by the applause afterwards was the best loved tune thus far, and I totally agree. The funky 1970’s disco keys vibe of 1997’s ‘Miss Modular’ was given an airing next. Their catchy 1993 ‘Mountain’ single followed with its swinging beat, which too was enjoyable.
‘Delugeoisie’ (from the 2010 ‘Not Music’ album) was played next. Lætitia informed us that this was a number referring to “the bourgeoisie deluding themselves”. Quite possibly aimed at previous inhabitants of Palace of Versailles and those from similar centuries past, judging by how the track started with Andy Ramsay on shakers.
Lætitia informed us to “put on our dancing shoes” for their 1992 ‘Harmonium’ single, which was played next. This song is classic Stereolab, with its krautrock Neu! Style vibe with Nico-esque vocals atop. Amazingly, this was my choice tune of the whole evening as it was the loudest yet and my feet were being made to tingle through my shoes as the vibrations lifted up through the metal plate I was standing on at the crowd barrier at the front. It really now felt that the concert had started in earnest, and it was worth venturing out this evening simply to solely hear this performed live. Judging by the loud applause after the track had finished, I clearly wasn’t alone!
Track ten was ‘I Feel The Air (Of Another Planet)’, which was a quieter number than its predecessor, but it was filled with Lætitia’s Slowdive-esque dreamy vocals. The Prophet-5 Sequential analog synthesizer was given a good going over by Joseph Watson on ‘Pack Yr Romantic Mind’, and before we knew it, we were on the last tune of the main set, which was the title tune from 1991’s ‘Super-Electric’ album. This too was another classic slab of pure Stereolab, with fab bass drum action going on from Andy Ramsay. This too reminded me of ‘Roadrunner’ meets Nico-esque vocals and krautrock vibe. Although it did have a possibly too lengthy distorted central section, which no doubt Alan Vega and Martin Rev (Suicide) fans would have enjoyed.
The predictable walking off stage and coming on again encore was done. The setlist informed us that we had a trio of tunes to come our way, with the first of those to be ‘Gus The Mynah Bird’ from the 2001 ‘Sound-Dust’ album, but instead Lætitia announced that the next tune was to be ‘Allures’ which can be located on the 1997 ‘Miss Modular’ EP. The penultimate number was my favourite Stereolab song 1993’s ‘French Disko’ single, which is still an earworm to this day. However, tonight’s version felt faster and had a definite punk vibe going down. It wasn’t as good as ‘Harmonium’ had been, which was a shock.
They bowed out a tune found on the new 2022 ‘Pulse Of The Early Brain [Switched On Volume 5]’ album, that being the Stereolab & Nurse With Wound track ‘Simple Headphone Mind’, which was bass heavy and the loudest volume wise of the whole set. Drummer Andy was fiddling behind his drum set during this number and I couldn’t see from the front what he was up to. He quite possibly had another small keyboard or knob twiddling something down there. It had a repetitive Suicide style beat that speeded up and by five to eleven they were done. It had been a success and the poor girl at the merch stall certainly had her work cut out judging by the long queue of vinyl purchasing junkies.
Tim Gane – guitar, keyboards (1990–2009, 2019–present)
Lætitia Sadier – lead vocals, keyboards, guitar, percussion, trombone (1990–2009, 2019–present)
Andy Ramsay – drums (1992–2009, 2019–present)
Joseph Watson – keyboards, vibraphone, backing vocals (2004–2009, 2019–present)
Xavier Muñoz Guimera – bass guitar, backing vocals (2019–present)
‘Supah Jaianto’ (from 2010 ‘Not Music’ album)
‘Low Fi’ (from 1992 ‘Low Fi’ EP)
‘Eye Of The Volcano’ (from 2006 ‘Eye Of The Volcano’ single)
‘Refractions In The Plastic Pulse’ (from 1998 ‘Miss Modular’ EP & 1998 ‘Refractions In The Plastic Pulse’ single)
‘U.H.F. – MFP’ (from 1993 ‘The Groop Played “Space Age Batchelor Pad Music”’ album)
‘Miss Modular’ (from 1997 ‘Dots And Loops’ album)
‘Mountain’ (from 1993 ‘Where Are All Those Puerto Rican Boys?’ / ‘Mountain’ Unrest/Stereolab split single)
‘Delugeoisie’ (from 2010 ‘Not Music’ album)
‘Harmonium’ (from 1992 ‘Harmonium’ / ‘Farfisa’ single)
‘I Feel The Air (Of Another Planet)’ (from 2000 ‘The First Of The Microbe Hunters’ album)
‘Pack Yr Romantic Mind’ (from 1993 ‘Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements’ album)
‘Super-Electric’ (from 1991 ‘Super-Electric’ EP)
‘Allures’ (from 1997 ‘Miss Modular’ EP)
‘French Disko’ (from 1993 ‘French Disko’ single & 2007 ‘Eaten Horizons Or The Electrocution Of Rock’ album)
‘Simple Headphone Mind’ (from 2022 ‘‘Pulse Of The Early Brain [Switched On Volume 5]’ album) (Stereolab & Nurse With Wound track)
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