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Words + photos by Farrah Skeiky

If you were expecting a runthrough of the Amelie soundtrack at the 930 Club on Saturday, I am not at all sorry, because what actually happened was so much better. Yann Tiersen graced his favorite venue in the district with the awe-inspiring macabre romance of his studio work carried out by a full band, and brought along the phenomenal one-man-band extraordinaire Piano Chat.


Piano Chat is french for Keyboard Cat, and that’s what most anyone knew about Marceau Boré’s ambitious solo project. Boré plays keys, synth, guitar, drums and sings (as does Tiersen, just not simultaneously), and relies heavily on loop pedals to create a full band effect, but what’s astonishing is the organic quality of each sound. It’s the undisputed result of countless hours poured into understanding every component of the sound to reach a mastery of such seemingly robotic and confining tools. The songs range from guitar driven ballads with biting vocals to galloping pop rock numbers– the problem is, I don’t know what to call this distinct sound. Listen and decide for yourself.


Watching Boré perform is a small wonder. He wears his heart on his sleeve; once he is content with a sound he is trying to achieve for loop, it’s almost as if he’s realized he’s taken a few seconds too many to bask in it before literally jumping to the next thing. Instead of exuding a frantic energy, we see passion– well, we see Piano Chat’s almost exaggerated facial expressions. And he wants us to dance. It’s tough not to oblige him (I refuse to say it’s the accent, but it just might be).

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The best part about Piano Chat’s set is that Boré is constantly having fun, and poking fun at the crowd and himself. “You think it’s the end, but I promise you, it’s not the end yet. I think maybe I know,” he laughed when we started clapping much too soon into a ballad. Or even, “It’s, uh, it’s not really one of the beautiful songs,” he remarked on a much more dissonant tune. At one point he lifts a White House souvenir snow globe to the mic so we can hear the “Star Spangled Banner” melody of his new toy. Boré ventured into the crowd twice, the second time to close out his set with a beautiful harmonization with the crowd lead by the tiny accordion-like box he was playing on the floor. Everyone is fascinated and eager to be part of it; everyone including Yann Tiersen, who is in the crowd standing. to. my. left.


As a result, when it comes time for Yann Tiersen to re emerge on stage, the room is already buzzing. It’s safe to say that fifty percent of the room had no idea what to expect and most likely hadn’t heard anything outside of the Amelie soundtrack. That soundtrack was my introduction to Tiersen, but what really sparked my interest was 2005’s Les Retrouvailles, which included guest vocals from Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser and Stuart Staples of Tindersticks. The soundtracks have since paled in comparison to the dark overtones in Tiersen’s studio work, and cool, nearly ominous lighting is what we are greeted with as if to convey that very message.


“Palestine” stands out early in the set. It’s a good introduction to Tiersen’s work outside of film soundtracks, much darker than new listeners would expect, and much more romantic. Having a reputation as a skilled pianist and composer doesn’t stop Tiersen from being an all-out rock star. But the childlike wonder Tiersen is famed for isn’t lost either. Not even in “Fuck Me,” which if you didn’t know, is one of the most beautiful love songs you’ll ever hear. There’s a hopeful quality in the melody that makes you painfully aware of feelings you didn’t know you had as you hear, “Please let’s get undressed, we need to live it.”


Tiersen’s band is rife with talent necessary for playing such well composed rock songs. Floating vocals, distorted guitars, and fluid violin intersect at so many points during this set, but none stand out more than “The Gutter,” the song that shouldn’t work but is more beautiful every time I hear it. “Sur le fil” is a captivating violin solo, bow hairs coming loose in a mesmerizing breakdown that has fans screaming. The dissonance evolves into a fight as the charging energy of “Le Train” reveals itself with a speeding train projected behind the band complete with frantic strobes. It is clear now: the childlike wonder of the Amelie soundtrack isn’t here. It’s replaced by a warped, morbid curiosity, and a rushing, squealing violin that prove one thing: Yann Tiersen is ten times more metal than whatever is happening at Deathfest the same night.

“I’m so happy that I broke a string,” Tiersen admits, “so now it’s time for comedy.” The language barrier makes that a little tough (surprising– there’s quite an international crowd here). Then the bizarre happened- “Do you want to sing along in a cover of Chris de Burgh’s lady in red?” Under any other circumstances, probably not. But tonight, Tiersen got more participation out of a 9:30 crowd than I’ve ever seen.

Once violin strings are replaced, the gorgeous set presses on. “Chapter 19” wraps the crowd in a nostalgic embrace, and “Monuments” proves the strength of the new album Skyline with sparkling vocals and a rare floating quality with lighting to match. And through it all, Tiersen takes turns at playing everything, even drums. It’s a magically French night where there is romance in everything. Perhaps you remain hooked to those lighter, floating notes that seem to illuminate. Or perhaps the darker notes continue to resound within you and force you into introspect. You might just be really charmed by Tiersen taking a picture with (not of) the entire crowd on his last night in the US.

Whatever it may be, it’s impossible to leave without being inspired by the passion that filled the room. If only Tiersen had been inspired to make Zou Bisou Bisou his after party. We can dream, right?












More Piano Chat:

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