Ghostchild’s review of the Bataclan/Showcase gigs on the 19th & 20th April 2008. Original at Visual Music
“Oh God what a f***** day!” Tom said many times that day. This defines quite well a rather crazy day during which ESP played two shows in less than 5 hours.
When we meet ESP under the Alexandre III bridge, it is 3 PM. Pale and tired Tom White looks exhausted. However, he is very welcoming and talks about Eels, Paris and the weather while changing the strings of his guitar before the soundcheck. During a cigarette break, we ask him where Alex is. The answer is surprising: “Alex is at a wedding in England. He took the Eurostar this morning and will be back for the Showcase concert. But he will miss the Bataclan gig, we’ll have to do without him… That’s scary!” This is something to be scared of: not only do Alex and Tom share the vocal duties, but Alex plays all the keyboards parts. The band will have to play without one of its key elements. A real challenge.
The band starts the soundcheck. Tom is slowly pacing on stage while Damo gets ready. Tom plays the riff from the song Marquee Moon and then starts with “Things Snowball” and “Empty At The End”. It’s time to prepare Alex’s instruments. Matt does it as Tom sings the end of “Cold World”.
Let’s go to the Bataclan. In the van, Tom seems barely awake, Matt admires the streets of Paris and Damo tells us about French cartoon songs… It is 5 PM when we reach the Bataclan. We help them unload the van and Tom tells us about his memories with Brakes in this venue. The band goes backstage and we decide to watch Ian Brown’s soundcheck which is running late. It takes one hour for Brown to go on stage but he eventually stops singing after 5 minutes and leaves the venue…
We go outside the venue, just in order to show off a bit before the people who are already waiting to come in… It is 18.45 and ESP would like to start its soundcheck but an amp has decided not to work. 10 minutes after it works again probably thanks to a divine intervention. The band is meant to go on stage at 8pm. Tom starts “Woken By A Kiss” that sounds incredibly well even without Alex. The song is stripped down of its arrangements and gains a rough violence. Damo and Tom rehearse the coda of the song before going backstage. There, the mood is nervous. We do not dare remind Tom that he promised us an interview but it is him who mentions it. Half an hour later, it is time to go on stage.
There are barely thirty people in the Bataclan when ESP takes over the stage with “Woken By A Kiss” and its dreamy chorus and violent ending. The audience loves it. Relieved, the band plays “Cold World” (without piano!) and it sounds great. Those songs are so good that they would sound great even with just a triangle. Every newcomer in the venue seems to fall in love with the band.
Tom plays the E minor chord of “Have You Ever…” and its chorus you cannot forget. “Silent To The Dark”, “Empty At The End” during which Tom sings the guitar solo and Damo does a bit of translation: “yeah yeah” becomes “ouais ouais”. Tom jokes about Matt looking like the drummer from Muse before playing “Appropriate Ending” and “Everybody Wants”. This stripped down version is played with much energy, almost heavy sometimes and the audience loves it. Time to leave now, the three piece concert has been a success.
Backstage, the mood is very light. Tom seems to be the happiest man on earth as if the successful gig had given him a new energy. Back in the van, we talk about Of Montreal and the Hissing Fauna record. Matt plays “Suffer For Fashion” and everyone sings (quite out of tune for the French people…) when we are back at the Showcase.
10PM. We cannot reach the Showcase by car so we have to carry the instruments and walk. Half an hour later, we resume the interview and wait for Alex. The owner of the Showcase often comes to say that the prettiest (and the richest) girls of Paris are here tonight. The show is meant to start at 0h20. By the end of the interview, Alex turns up and everyone looks happy, looking forward to going on stage. It’s time to make a set-list. They think about playing “Life In The Backseat”, “Sleep Alone”, “We Don’t Need To Fight Anymore”… but eventually choose to play the same songs as in Vienna. No “Life In The Backseat”, no “A Beating Heart”.
0H50: Electric Soft Parade goes on stage and starts with “Woken By A Kiss”. “Cold World” has found its piano back and is definitely the crazy diamond of the ESP catalogue. Alex takes his guitar and plays the opening riff of “Things Snowball”. “Misunderstanding”, is like Weezer meets Grandaddy and the audience loves it, especially during the dreamy part in the middle. Tom and Alex sing together before “Lose Yr Frown” that gives the impression that McCartney has written songs with Black Francis. “Have You Ever Felt Like It’s Too Late?” and its stop start, and then “Come Back Inside”. Alex sings on this one which is like a long crescendo towards a powerful feeling. Single “If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know” has that guitar riff that we cannot get out of our heads.
Electric Soft Parade ends with “Everybody Wants” that has found back Alex’s keyboard part, a song like a huge bird which really unfolds its wings when live. Both intimate and huge, it works as well in a concert venue as by night on your own in your little room. The audience gives a warm cheer.
The tour is over and it has ended on a crazy day. The band is going back to Brighton the day after. We discuss for an hour and it’s time to leave for ESP. Thanks to the band for that day!