Thursday, 17 November 2016

The gig that cannot be reviewed

In keeping with the recent convention of this blog, it was always my intention to review a gig I attended earlier this week, but for reasons that will become clear, I cannot review the acts, since circumstances decreed it impossible.

The Other Half had discovered Nouvelle Vague some years ago – a French outfit that covers punk and new wave music in a bossa nova style (I shall assume you’ll all get the three-way pun involved).

When it emerged that they were playing a gig at The Forum in Kentish Town, we decided to give it a whirl.

The best thing about the evening was, as it turned out, a pint of proper ale in the Bull and Gate just a few steps away from the venue – and a very nice pub it is too. Though to be strictly fair, The Forum itself – a converted 1930s cinema – is a lovely building with fascinating decoration that uses Roman iconography.

Liset Alea kicked off the gig. One of the lead singers with Nouvelle Vague, she also appears as a support act on their tours.

A singer-songwriter, she played a guitar on stage and was accompanied by a lone musician playing both keyboard and percussion.

Now, I have very good hearing and perhaps it’s become more sensitive in recent years, because I could barely hear a word – I certainly couldn’t hear enough to understand a single individual song.

When she announced that she had just two songs left, I walked out and left the auditorium.

My hope was that the night’s main act would find the sound more balanced.

It was not to be.

Yes – I appreciate that this is ‘rock ‘n’ roll’, but that is not a synonym for ‘as loud as possible’.

The last gig I was at – I’m excluding Pink Martini as they’re not really ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ – was an intimate West End performance by 2 Tone ska band The Selector, and it did not have me wondering whether it would be my eyes or my ears that would bleed first.

Not only did I find myself miserably musing on such a question on Tuesday night at The Forum, I could feel the sound throbbing in my throat and ended up with a banging headache, even though we left early.

I’ve been informed since that some people take ear plugs to gigs. Which seems to me to be utterly daft.

And while that may dampen the sound somewhat, it does not address the issue of not being able to clearly hear lyrics or of every sound being so amplified that it ‘blurs’ around the edges.

So I’m sorry – there will be no review of Nouvelle Vague or Liset Alea. The sound levels were so uncomfortable and distracting that I actually cannot say whether they were good, bad or indifferent.

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