|Last night, at the Olympia
Hall, we were lucky enough to witness a true rebirth of British Pop
music; the British scene had been longing for this new inspiration,
fresh and talented, and that for a long time.
first part of the venue features Grand National. The band is usually
only represented by its two founders, Londonian DJs Ruppert Lydden
(voice), and Lawrence "La" Rudd (guitar and voice), but that night,
they have come with three musicians, all gifted with a strong personality.
The five of them start with a cocktail that might sound a little
too familiar: the inspirations of late 80s pop groups is indeed
very present (New Order, the Happy Mondays). And
yet… it is a daring challenge to "recycle" these old sounds we all
enjoy so much, but the group succeeds in this with undeniable talent
(this is probably because when bearing the name of the greatest
horse race in the United Kingdom, winning is a second nature!).
Grand National immediately comes to the heart of the matter, and
as the first tunes start, everyone in the audience is taken with
a strong, irrepressible desire to dance; this is particularly true
on Peanut Dreams : starting with a bass and light drums, to which
a little strum of guitar is gradually added, and then a second guitar,
which doubles the bass, this authentic "DJ" piece, very simple and
linear, yet acquires a Jairoquaï-like electro-funky power, also
sprinkled with pop style voices.
Before the audience has even had time to catch their breath, the
band goes on with Drink to moving on, their most famous song, a
melody tinged with melancholy, both dreamy and obsessive, but with
a sunny note added by the guitar theme : a potential hit!! La's
punctual voice interventions, with a tonality reminding of Sting,
add another touch of poetry to the song. Furthermore, Grand National
has not forgotten the times when they sung covers of Police in the
pubs of West London or Brighton. They could just not possibly skip
playing Walking on the Moon, and they do so with great talent and
creativity, and a very original vocal composition: the audience
this moment of dreaming, back to the serious stuff, and the energetic
Playing in the distance. The heavy bass melodies, backed up by the
dry and incisive rhythm of the guitar, and by the rough voice, produce
an immediate effect on the audience, who start jumping as one man
(well…, that is, in the front rows, as one woman ! :-)). We also
get to listen to more reggae style pieces, like Boner, which makes
the atmosphere of the concert even more festive. In all these pieces,
instruments and voices are perfectly balanced and harmonious, each
underlining the others. As for the singer, he has a great charisma,
and really knows how to deal with the public: with his funny look,
coloured tie, and comments in French, he easily connects with the
audience. In short, they have all it takes, and to us, "small band
will become Grand [Inter] National"!
Site web : http://www.grand-national.net/
a short pause, The Servant arrives on stage. The audience, already
pretty excited by Grand National, comes literally delirious as soon
as the singer, Dan Black, appears. Of course, before his -still
very relative- glory on the pop-rock scene, handsome Dan was already
familiar with flash lights: he was a model for Vogue magazine. But
his true world is not that of spangles and glamour: life was not
always that easy. Cell is a good introduction to this Olympia Hall
concert, which will most certainly give the stamp of success to
the band (before moving on to even bigger concert halls!). It's
all click when the mortgage clears, all our fears will disappear
: after ten years of hardships on the verge of London's "underground"
circles, the band can be reassured, the public's enthusiasm speaks
for itself. From one song to the other, the variety of issues tackled
immerses us deep into the intimate, a bit neurotic world of the
singer, typical of "Bedroom pop". His vision on some aspects of
modern society, such as the difficulty to communicate between individuals
(Cells, I Can walk in your mind), money becoming a substitute for
religion as a universal way of life (Jesus says), or the absurd
life of lower social classes (Body), is of surprising maturity.
Not only are the topics original, but also they are handled with
a great deal of poetry.
composition of the pieces is no less astonishing: The Servant transgresses
all the rules and does not follow any preset recipe. They go from
pretty, soft rhythm ballads, to much darker rock compositions, which
can even be disturbing and morbid (i.e. Devil; indeed, when listening
carefully to the lyrics, one can think Dan really has a problem!!).
There are many discontinuances, changes of tone, and the listener
using his usual musical logic is both completely lost, and completely
charmed, so fruitful are the talent and creativity of the band!
In I can walk in your mind, with its
sixties-like sound, you feel like grabbing your neighbour's hand
and going dancing in the fields; the catchy melody might seem too
smooth, if you don't pay attention, once again, to the strange lyrics,
in total shift with the melody. In Liquefy, light spots sweep across
the hall, fitting perfectly with the song: sparkling blue reflections
turn the Olympia hall into a sea of spectators, bathing in the happiness
of this romantic "teenager" ballad. In Jack The Ripper, a song from
the new album, rock'n roll, jerky and powerful, Dan Black, possessed,
wanders from one end of the stage to the other, with a completely
anarchic choreography; then he comes closer to the front rows, and
starts jumping with a sadistic expression on his face….Arghhhh…it
gives us the shivers! But where we least expected them to do so,
The Servant just literally takes our breath away, with Not Scared,
Terrified, a song played "unplugged", with a 12 strings Martin.
Emotion is palpable in the air; the audience stops breathing and
concentrates on this great moment of communion. We have to wait
for the recalls before the band finally plays its hit piece Orchestra.
Its strange and poetic lyrics, together with the dream-like quality
of the melody, transports us into another world, somewhat autistic,
but so comfortable…
for the way Dan Black is moving on stage, he does so perfectly,
with true acting talent : at turns flirty and then dramatic when
singing the darker songs, he occupies space with remarkable easiness,
and animates the entire evening in French, with his light but delicious
British accent. He creates a wonderful complicity with the public,
with small jokes at every occasion (for instance, when a very enthusiastic
fan screams "Dan!!" he immediately answers back "err… Françoise?!!").
And the sincerity of the band cannot be doubted when they come back
after the second recall saying "We don't want to stop!" (I saw the
play list and the last song was truly not planned!).
Impressions from the audience coming out of the Olympia hall
that night? They are unanimous:
"Imposing, impressive, the new song is great"
"The vibrations of the floor were so strong we had to follow the
"Great; on stage they do not cheat; they give the best they have".
"What a star. He should only do some muscle training…" (Note: this
is solely this charming young lady's opinion, we decline any responsibility!!).
"It was too short, went by too fast! All the songs are beautiful;
the folk-style ballad just knocked me out!".
"ENORMOUS. You know, I play the guitar, and I can tell you the guitarist
"This Dan Black is a genius; the guitarist is just extraordinary;
the song he played with a 12 string Martin... a slice of heaven:
I get back home, and I start learning how to play it!!"
After so many praises, we can only wish them one thing: to go far,
and above all, not to change! We love you just the way you are!
Website : http://www.theservant.co.uk/
Hamdi et Aurélie Partouche