Yann Tiersen @ Picture House
By: Sharon Burke
There is something euphoric and slightly disturbing about being in a theatre with about 1499 other waiting strangers who are all feeling the same thing.
The atmospheric Picture House in Edinburgh, which since the seventies has played host to a variety of bands from New York Dolls to The Smiths, opened its doors to fans of France’s most-loved and most-admired contemporary musician, Yann Tiersen. Although I was not a Yann Tiersen virgin and had seen the maestro perform previously, this was my first experience of Tiersen performing with a full band. Cause for elation, one might say.
The static currents which infused the air above the waiting masses were proof of the high regard with which Tiersen is held in the UK. The many young French students gently hummed La Valse d’Amelie under their expectant breath; others were brave and cavorted around the theatre chanting ‘fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.’ Lyrics, of course, from the so-titled song from Tiersen’s latest offering, Dust Lane.
The forty-year-old didn’t fail to impress. Dust Lane is a record which sounds truly convincing live, the voice of this minimal-inspired record is immense and filled up the entire theatre with colour and rhythmic passion. Sufferers of synaesthesia beware: Tiersen is to be avoided if you want to sleep without visions of sugarplums dancing before your eyes.
Although Tiersen’s recent works have been compared to minimalist Philip Glass, when performed live the songs recalled hints of Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, and most of all, of course Maps’ James Chapman. ‘Fuck Me’ was executed tremendously well; lo-fi effects complimented Tiersen’s wistful vocals and sent a shiver down the spine and back up again. Tiersen and his band performed for almost two hours, and two encores were demanded by the audience who began to experience withdrawal symptoms if the musician disappeared from the spotlight for a mere millisecond.
It was as though the crowd craved an energy that only this perfumer could provide, and I genuinely have not experienced a show like this in my many years gig-going, music- watching. It was cinematically gripping, like watching a story unfold without any communication other than the notes and refrains which slid from Tiersen’s array of synths, guitars, melodica, and violin. One particular violin solo, ‘Qu'en reste-t-il?’, struck so much awe into the audience that there was a definitive thirty seconds of silence after it melted away. The girl two rows in front of me wept on the shoulder of her friend, who appeared to be experiencing some sort of epiphany.
Tiersen did play a few numbers from past records L’Absente and Les Retrouvailles, yet the focus remained firmly on Dust Lane. The title song of the album opened the show, and released a strange combination of calm and hysteria into the crowd. ‘Palestine’, ‘Dark Stuff’ and ‘Amy’ were also included during the main set. A ethereal stillness descended upon the audience during ‘Palestine’, which has the ability to make even an early-morning commuter stop in his tracks. Two hours of extremely haunting and gripping music has probably spoilt 1500 Edinburghians, for whom any subsequent gigs will be an anti-climax to say the least. Yann Tiersen is one of those rare and exceptional musicians who wears his heart perched on his sleeve while he performs. It is difficult not to be affected by this performance, and strike it off my list of Things To Do Before I Die/Turn Forty.
Video: “Dust Lane Album Trailer“ by Yann Tiersen