Live review: Au Revoir Simone at the El Rey
If Au Revoir Simone didn't exist, someone would have had to invent them. The trio has one of the best implacable it factors going for them in recent memory -- a sort of Francophile synth-pop read of the Lisbon sisters in "The Virgin Suicides" that's compellingly veiled and sounds positively aglow. The band's new album, "Still Night, Still Light," is really endearing in a dreamy, suburban-gothic way. So why was its live show last night at the El Rey so unexpectedly approachable? And does one want that from them?
On stage, they have a very Kraftwerk-ian setup: an L-shaped bank of synthesizers and samplers, with an occasional appearance by a live bass. From the looks of it, very little of the set was pre-programmed, and the vocal harmonies were abundant and intricate. But under hot lights, the more ethereal qualities of their records get sort of humanized in a way you'd almost rather not know about them.
Maybe it's just the lack of a drummer, but they weren't quite chilly enough to be commandingly standoffish, nor playing hard enough to win the room. Save for keyboardist Erika Forster, who at times was threatening to kick a hole in the floor while beating away at her synth rig, they played with the personality of a rock band but without any of the physicality.
That said, the good moments were very good. The 8-bit mod-wheel blowout "Knight of Wands" was a fine and lively set closer, and you just can't argue with as perfect and tiny a pop song as "Shadows." "Still Night" is getting pretty constant play in these corners, so maybe it's just a question of setting. Maybe Au Revoir Simone sounds better as a night-bus soundtrack than as a band who tells stories about how one of them accidentally dropped her in-ear monitor in the backstage plumbing. I bet they're really, really nice people to know in person, but given their sound and presence, on stage they might make more sense as a fleeting mirage than someone you could actually talk to.
Photo via artist's MySpace