posted on November 23, 2009 18:00
La Flèche d’Or, the much-loved music bar in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, opened again last night (23 November), having been closed since the end of April.
As we told you, the licence on the premises – a former railway station served by the train that gives the bar its present name – expired on 30 April and complaints from local residents about sound levels meant that major renovation work would be necessary for a new licence to be granted. This being a costly intervention possibly offset by the venue’s popularity and name recognition, the licence was taken on jointly by two established promoters – Alias Production and Asterios Spectacles, operators of successful Paris concert halls like the Bataclan and the Maroquinerie.
So, what does the new Flèche look like? Quite like the old one (right), actually – there have been no visible structural changes but we presume the walls are now packed with insulation. There are a couple of layout improvements – the bar is now along the back wall where the few tables were, and the sound desk has been moved from the centre to the side. The crow’s-nest lighting desk has been taken down, so the Flèche lampies have come back to earth. There is no longer a bar in the smoking patio outside, which also has fewer seats. This being Paris, where the natives smoke like chimneys, most local punters should be happy that the previous overcrowding in the corner has been relieved (though it was still busy last night between sets).
Even in the last six months of its existence, the old Flèche had abandoned the free-to-entry policy that attracted music-ravenous punters like your correspondent. But at least the charade of “free entry but obligatory ticket to buy a drink, but free entry” has been dropped – to get in last night it cost eight euro, a price which includes one drink at the bar. However, like at music festivals here, you must pay a refundable deposit of one euro for your plastic cup. Will customers wait patiently at a crowded bar to get their one euro refunded at the end of the night, or will they write it off? (Those euros add up.) Still, eight euro to see four acts is always good value and the Flèche’s international reputation means that there’ll be quality somewhere on the line-up.
So, what about the music last night?
Launching the good ship Flèche d’Or was American singer-songer Chris Brokaw. Unfortunately, his dour Dylan-esque folk-rock wasn’t a great way to whip up a frenzy on such an auspicious night. Next on stage were The Two, a local boy-girl folk-pop duo whose love-and-angst English lyrics were cringefully naff and clichéd. Still, they had celebrity support – actress Charlotte Rampling was there to cheer them on. (We figure that a lady with her was the mother of the girl singer.)
Then came the star of the night – Evan Dando, for an acoustic solo set. He hasn’t aged a day since his mid-‘90s indie pin-up heyday – same long, dangling fair hair and sun-kissed good looks. And those songs from ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ and ‘Come On Feel The Lemonheads’ are just as ageless. The strength of those songs is the tension between Dando’s happy-go-lucky stage persona and the melancholy in his voice and lyrics. (‘Confetti’ and ‘My Drug Buddy’, two songs that always inspire celebratory audience participation, are really very dark and lonely in their subject matter.) And, of course, their undeniable catchiness. That said, his later songs are a little whimsical and insipid – so we propose that Evan Dando is the Paul McCartney of alt-rock.
Brokaw joined Dando onstage for the final furlong, which included a sincere and unironic version of Christina Aguilera’s hit ‘Beautiful’ and a gorgeous acoustic rendition of ‘Ride With Me’. No rock-outs like ‘Rudderless’ or ‘Alison’s Starting To Happen’ but most other bases covered in an hour-long set – Lemonheads fans were well satisfied last night.
Upcoming shows at the Flèche include our fellow Irishman in Paris, Perry Blake, this Thursday and The Raveonettes in early December. Full listings are available on the Flèche d’Or MySpace page.
The Flèche is back, baby! From last night’s relaunch here’s Evan Dando and Chris Brokaw performing ‘Ride With Me’: