Yann Tiersen at Vicar Street, Dublin, 23rd September 2014
“So you want to be in my band?” Yann Tiersen said to a young hopeful. “How many instruments can you play?” “Three”, said the young man rather confidently, for he was considered by many of his friends to be musically gifted. “Hmmm”, said Yann, stroking his Gallic chin, “impressive. However minimum entry requirements are twelve. Come back to me when you’re a musician worthy of my greatness.”
OK, so this conversation probably never happened, but they are an intimidatingly talented bunch that make up Yann’s band onstage in Vicar Street. Of course, even they pale in comparison to the great impresario himself as he wields everything from the boring old guitar to marimba, tin whistle, synths, melodica and many others. However it is on the violin and piano that Yann really mesmerises. His piano work is well known through his soundtrack to ‘Amélie’ and two of the songs from that album feature tonight: La Dispute which is stunning on solo piano and Sur le fil during the encore, a virtuoso violin performance that elicits one of the biggest cheers of the night.
However, there is much more to Yann Tiersen than ‘Amélie’ and the full range of his styles is on display tonight. His most recent album, ‘Infinity’, features heavily, with all but one of its ten tracks making an appearance. He opens with Meteorites and if you were in any doubt that he has strayed from his French roots the distinctive sound of vibrato guitar so evocative of the country puts those doubts to bed. The well-dressed, presumably French, crowd starts to move for the first time halfway through Slippery Stones once the beat kicks. He shows his human side when there is a pregnant pause before Midsummer Evening and he admits he has forgotten what key it’s in.
La Dispute is the first solo piano number of the night and draws an awed silence from the crowd. This is followed by La Crise, a mini-epic that is one of the highlights of the evening. In fact, many of Tiersen’s more electronic-tinted compositions could be described as mini-epics, as they tend to build and stop quite abruptly. It’s unlikely there would have been any complaints if songs like The Gutter, Lights and set-closer Till The End were allowed another couple of minutes to breathe and thrive. It’s a rare complaint that the live versions of songs are too short.
There is a bit of a dip in the middle of the set where vocal duties are handed over to one of Yann’s multi-instrumentalist sidekicks and there is a certain sameness to the songs that was not present in the opening half. There is also a niggling doubt that there really is a need for the variety of instruments that are demonstrated, but it does make for a captivating show, and the man’s apparent humbleness extinguishes any thoughts of showing off for the sake of it.
It’s over in a flash and the lights come on to reveal one of the best-looking crowds Vicar Street has seen. If only those who complain about immigration could have been there.