Nouvelle Vague, Moriarty @ Sydney Festival (19/01/2012)

The Sydney Festival, showcasing talent from Australia and around the world, goes a little bit French thanks to the So Frenchy So Chic crew.

I took my role as reviewer seriously and immersed myself in French culture to prepare for the night. I played Serge Gainsbourg on my iPod, although not quietly enough that an old woman on the bus looked embarrassed as Je t’aime moi non plus played. She slipped me her number as she alighted with a promise of many French actions later. Just what is a soixante-neuf anyway? There was only one thing left to do to make myself feel more feel French. I donned a beret, adopted an air of sophistication and arrogance, went out, found some German tourists, and surrendered to them.

Moriarty, apparently named after a character by Jack Kerouac, not Arthur Conan Doyle, is fronted by singer, Rosemary Standley who comes out looking like a cross between a glamorous French chanteuse and a latter day Debbie Harry. The five multi-instrumentalists look they should be in a jazz band or a jug and washboard band, except for the guy that looked like he was from Haysi Fantayzee. The beat influence in their name is also a clue to their acoustic, country, folk, blues sound. I wasn’t expecting to be taken on a tedious journey to the backwaters of some foreign country, but that is where I found myself.

For those who don’t know them, Nouvelle Vague are a French band who take new wave songs from the eighties, the popular and not so popular, and rework them into laid back songs of seduction. The two singers, who come on stage in complimenting outfits resembling an airline cabin crew, make every song sound like a love song. They talk to the crowd in heavy accented English, bop around the stage, and generally encourage people to have a good time. The crowd needed little encouragement.

There are many bands out there reinterpreting the songs from my youth, including Richard Cheese and his lounge versions and the assortment of bands on the Bossa N Ramones album, but none of them do it with the panache of Nouvelle Vague. They beguile the audience with their rhythms and voices. The set was not as packed with as many of my favourites as on their previous tour but, the good songs were so very good, I can forgive them. What an act.