Parisian playfulness

Paris Combo

QPAC, Concert Hall

March 20

With pixie haircut and wearing pretty polka-dot dress, Paris Combo’s Belle du Berry is the epitome of French style and it is of little surprise that in her QPAC welcome, she explains that the show’s songs will be in French so if we don’t understand, that’s fair enough. Luckily Australian-born trumpeter and pianist David Lewis is on hand to translate, which leads to many moments of incidental humour that only add to the show’s eclectic appeal.

This is far from a typical French cabaret. Rather, the charismatic chanteuse frontwoman and her four-piece band transforms tradition by giving it a distinctly cosmopolitan twist. The program presents a variety of blended sounds from vibrant gypsy jazz, French pop, Latin syncopation and Northern African rhythms in reflection of its band members’ varied musical roots, as accompaniment to Belle’s beautiful and versatile voice.

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This diversity also allows all band members a chance to shine, from Benoît Dunoyer de Segonzac’s elegant double bass playing to Potzi’s haunting guitar introduction to ‘Anémiques Maracas’ in contrast to the song’s cheeky and catchy later sounds and Lewis’ jazzy trumpeting in ‘Fibre De Verre’ and frequent simultaneous double play of piano and trumpet. And when, as she says, in the great tradition of French songstresses, Belle  leaves ‘for a glass of red’, and fellow French national François Jeannin sings, in English, Etta Jones’ ‘I Saw Stars’,  it marks just one of many memorable moments.

Although full of easy-on-the-ear sophistication, the show is also characterised by a playful attitude in both its music and between-song banter as Belle tells us about how each song is about love, introducing them with companion tales, such as, with ‘Señor’ why being single too long is ill-advised and in the title track from their latest album, “Tako Tsubo” (named after a rare medical condition colloquially called ‘broken-heart syndrome’)  about the effect of big emotional shocks. Indeed, the mix of songs from across their many albums, makes for a unique and engaging experience, especially when, in ‘If My Love’ the audience becomes the wind in the songstresses soul. The whimsicality crescendos in ‘Je Suis Partie’, complete with clap-along chorus and a ‘very dancy’ encore, during which audience members finally respond to Belle’s ‘get up and dance’ urging in embodiment of the pure entertainment that this show represents.

Paris Combo has been around for years and after experience of the quirky quintet’s unique contemporary musical stylings, it’s easy to appreciate why their Queensland debut has brought out such a crowd. Their sound is as delightful as it is difficult to define and deserving of every accolade they receive.

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