Gig Reviews, France


Carly Sings (live in La Bellevilloise, Paris)

Review Snapshot: Despite incessant audience noise and diabolical sound problems, which she really should just put aside, Carly Sings pulls out a strong performance of fine material - including some promising new songs.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Carly SingsTonight’s venue, a trendy music bar in the slightly bohemian 20th district of Paris, is full of lively punters out for a good time. For Carly Sings, this is bad news indeed.

You see, La Bellevilloise is fashionable because its clientele like to hang out here and chat with friends while having live music in the background as sonic wallpaper. By the bar it’s standing room only, as packed and noisy as a Friday evening train station. The disinterested audience din is overwhelming, quite possibly the loudest we’ve ever heard at a concert.

More used to dedicated Dublin listeners, Carly Blackman is up against it tonight. You’d hardly call her loud, confrontational or in-your-face. Even before the show starts she already looks nervous – we reckon she has family and friends in the audience. Added to that, her live set-up (with Ben and Guillaume on guitar and bass/cello) is plagued by technical problems; at some moments the sound seems to have been mixed with a blender. While singing, Blackman glares up at where the back wall meets the ceiling, and you wonder how someone can sing so clearly through gritted teeth. This wouldn’t be a good time to go bothering her about anything.

Between songs, though, she relaxes and tries to make light of the night’s adversity. When she asks the crowd to stop talking, she’s half-joking – but only half-joking.

And yet, despite all this, Carly Sings puts on an enjoyable performance. Those tracks from ‘The Glove Thief’, her debut album, still sound beguiling. The musical mixture of pop, jazz, chanson française and bossa nova is rich and evocative, like a specially-blended tea from far-off lands. And her lyrics feature strong visual imagery that complement the sparse arrangements – in a room where it’s hard to be heard, such directness is all the more necessary and welcome. In particular, ‘George Emerson’ rises above the racket like a hot-air balloon.

One thing: for someone who’s spent a lot of time in Lyon and Paris, Blackman’s French isn’t great tonight. Apart from singing ‘L’Amour’, around halfway she gives up the between-song banter en français and continues in English. But she said she was tired. (Not that this is a language exam or anything. Just saying, like.)

Of more interest than her French level are her new songs. She closes the set with two: the folksy ‘No Good Girl’ and ‘Jason Rising’. Both are up to the high standard of her previous work and that bodes well for the second Carly Sings album, which should hopefully be released in September.

Difficult second album? It can’t be as hard on Blackman as this bloody concert!

Aidan Curran

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