The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Sebastien Tellier (live at the Centre Pompidou, Paris)

Sebastien TellierReview Snapshot: An unusual location for, it must be said, a singular performer. The hairy, scary electronician brings his French lover routine to the famous Paris contemporary art museum. Unfortunately, his new synth-ballad material is nothing to get excited about. But the stripped-down version of 'La Ritournelle' was marvellous - and Tellier is always an engaging and entertaining live performer.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Have you been to the Centre Pompidou? You know where we mean. Wedged between naff Les Halles, sleazy Rue Saint Denis and ultra-hip Le Marais. Ugly on the outside, conceptually-arty on the inside. Music blaring on the plaza in front of it, either cutting-edge Tecktonik dancers or hitsville buskers. From the top, a great view of all Paris.

No better location, then, for Sebastien Tellier to showcase his new album, 'Sexuality', on 29 February last. A mixture of naff late-eighties Bowie, sleazy mid-eighties Prince and ultra-hip Giorgio Moroder and, emmm, Jean Michel Jarre. A concept album about sex, wrapped in sleeve art that's supremely awful: dumb, sexist and ugly. It's a record that's fashionable and traditional at once, and overall that sums up Paris for us.

 A seated theatre within an art gallery is probably not the best setting for this music; it kills excitement and encourages pretentiousness. But Tellier, tall and hairy like his rugby-playing near-namesake Sebastien Chabal, used his assertive physical presence and erratic personality to great effect; he put on a highly entertaining show.

The new material featured a lot of slow, synthy, two-step ballads in an '80s R n' B style: the working title for a track like 'Divine' might well have been 'Love Theme From "Beverly Hills Cop"'. You won't need to hear it. Now and then a vocoder effect would remind us that we were in Paris and that Guy-Man from Daft Punk had produced these tracks for Tellier. In truth, apart from the Jarre-esque 'Sexual Sportswear' there was little to tell the new songs apart.

But why was there a baseball bat lying centre-stage? Would he symbolically smash up the keyboards mid-song and carry on with ukelele? No, it was only a phallic prop: halfway through the show Tellier kneeled over it to give it a few languid, suggestive strokes. That was the beginning and end of any on-stage raunchiness to match the album's theme.

Much sexier was Tellier hunched over the piano, pounding out the familiar rolling chords of 'La Ritournelle'. Even with him slowing down the sung verses and wrecking the romantic buzz somewhat, the song was still as enthralling as ever. It was Tellier's only concession that night to the folksy, shambling style of previous album 'Politics'.

Tellier's scattered unpredicability will always make for fascinating concerts, and it's a pity that none of this volatility has made it into his new material. But that's modern art for you; dangerous people making dull things.

Aidan Curran

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