Yann Tiersen at The Showbox at The Market (All photos by Bebe Besch)
In bright green Converse shoes, the composer Yann Tiersen and his five-man team made their way onto the the Showbox at the Market’s stage. The 41-year-old French musician is known most popularly for his work on the soundtracks for “Goodbye Lenin!” and “Amélie” (which was made up of songs from Tiersen’s first two albums). Though these two soundtracks were expressively imaginative, Tiersen proves in a live setting that there’s more to love. Last month Tiersen released Skyline, his seventh studio album on Anti-Records where he strays into experimental territory that explodes in a live setting.
While Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack work is composed of thoughtful note placement, specifically on piano, Skyline’s songs include a layered mixture of different kinds including synths, violin, electric guitars, and thrashing drum work. In short, Yann Tiersen’s choice to play very few elder songs from “Amélie“ throughout his set was an intelligent one – all of his newly released material is perfect for a live setting, giving the opportunity to Tiersen and team to actually rock out to his classically-inspired yet exploratory creations. Also surprising was the utilization of Tiersen’s full band. On many songs, Ólavur Jákupsson took the role of main vocals while also working synthesizers. Jákupsson at moments stole the audience’s attention with his passionate voice, which is distinctively moving in amplitude and exuberance. This gave Tiersen the chance to play between several instruments throughout the performance. Teirsen tucked himself close to his keys and effects machines for many of the songs, but also stepped away to play multiple guitars – one being a pink electric guitar, another being an acoustic, and even a 12 string as well.
Of all the instruments that Yann Tiersen is masterful in, his violin speaks the loudest. Fans instantly began screaming in response as Tiersen first plucked the stringed instrument from the stage floor. For two older renditions, Tiersen pounded away violently to both “The Gutter” and “Sur Le Fil” as the crowd stood awestruck. The latter is found on “Amélie“ with the recorded version being played on piano. Tiersen instead vigorously performed the entire song solo with his violin, breaking several strands of hair along the bow he struck with.
Tiersen’s solo time on stage embodied clearly what was so successful throughout the entire performance; no matter how many band mates he had helping him or how many instruments he layered over one another, Tiersen speaks through his musical notes in language as he meticulously has forged romantic and emotionally charged pieces of art, rather than just song. Each alluring note reveals the genius inside, telling powerful stories of pain or anxiety leading to many of Tiersen’s build ups.
After completing the climax to “Sur Le Fil,” Tiersen chuckled and said, “I have to pee,” followed by “give me one minute”. His band began both filling back into their spaces as well as filling the silence with a bit of background music anticipating Tiersen’s return.
There’s a humbleness as a band’s banter contrasts such a compelling performance of songs, and Tiersen and co. were increasingly humorous as they spoke of drinking in Seattle, specifically at The Crocodile, but reassured us that they weren’t “too f**ed up or anything” to put on a good show. They did not disappoint, as they powered through five more cutting edge songs before their four-song encore.
However Tiersen and his band spend their time preparing for one of their live events is, once again, a perfect mixture, as they proved their sets are not something you can experience from watching a film or listening to an album; a live performance by Yann Tiersen breathes life into crevasses unfamiliar or undiscovered inside one’s psyche.
1. Till The End
4. F**k Me
6. Rue De Cascade
7. Another Shore
10. The Gutter
11. Sur Le Fil
12. Le Train
13. Chapter 19
15. Vanishing Point
16. Exit 25 Block 20
18. I’m Gonna Live Anyhow
19. Forgive Me
20. Le Quartier
21. The Trail
It was a welcome surprise to find that the unknown opener for the night was Nouela (solo) aka Nouela Johnston, previously under People Eating People. Alone with just her Yamaha and stunning vocals, Nouela wowed the silent crowd which crept towards her on stage. Each of Nouela’s songs seem to build up slowly to a bridge or last verse where her chops are free to display loudly ringing; many of the mainstream and soulful starlets would have felt intimidated by this performance as her voice never withered. Luckily for us, Nouela has two upcoming shows in Seattle, one at The Comet Tavern on April 27th, and then other the debut album release show for Chants with Nouela and full band at The Sunset Tavern on June 10th.