Live Review: Stereolab at Gothic Theatre
Stereolab, Monade and Le Loup
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Gothic Theatre
Better Than: Seeing just one Laetitia Sadier project.
For whatever reason, my expectations tend to be a lot lower for out of town opening acts touring with national and international bands. Luckily, Le Loup from Washington, DC, far exceeded those expectations. The six-piece act included a mandolin and banjo in its palette, but rather than trying some misguided Americana thing, the band opted for mesmeric, lush swells of sound that at times shimmered beautifully like On Fire-era Galaxie 500. Le Loup’s rhythms were strong and moody recalling the great post-punk of yesteryear, while the expansive and dreamy tones placed its aesthetic very much in the present. For the group’s final number, it was joined on stage by Marie Merlet and Xavier Chabellard of Monade for an epic and celebratory closing.
Monade took stage with very little preamble, not unlike a slightly awkward local band. But that’s been one of Laetitia Sadier’s charms -- not being into the whole rock star thing so much as just into being an artist who uses music as her medium. The set opened with the gentle strums of “Etoile.” Sadier told us that the next song, “Regarde” meant “look” as in “Take a look inside.” Beautiful bell tones accented the building rhythms of “Sensible et Extensible.” Marie Merlet’s bass tones were a subtly powerful combination of dub and jazz style, and Sadier’s vocals were beautifully, unconventionally melodic to accompany her unique, left-handed guitar stylings.
Before ending with “Pas Toujours; Encore,” Laetitia made sure to mention that the act on stage was indeed not Stereolab, recounting a show in Minneapolis in which a group of people have not seen the show and were getting ready to go after Monade’s set thinking they had seen Sadier’s more famous outfit. We all had a laugh because no one in the room had any designs on leaving quite yet. During the last song, Sadier and Merlet traded vocals to great effect as though one singer were sustaining an oddly syncopated rhythm that no single human could pull off.
In typical Stereolab fashion, the band took the stage with little fanfare and Sadier announced that the first song was “Percolator.” The song, from the band’s 1996 masterpiece, Emperor Tomato Ketchup, was more forceful and powerful than the studio version, perhaps because of the emphasis on the low end. I was a bit surprised by this rendition. And the “groop” kept up its spirits until the end. We were told that “Eye of the Volcano” was about “Freedom Fries.” The tune, which unabashedly criticized abuse of political power, served as a reminder of the insipidity of that level of political correctness. Oddly enough, it was during that song that I was struck with how Laetitia Sadier is one of the few singers who emanates calm and cool while also projecting an emotional warmth and sensuality.
The band seemed to be having fun throughout the show and performed generously from all eras of its career going back the Peng! album. Before performing “Cybele’s Reverie,” Sadier remarked that it was a long way to Denver, Colorado, but that it was worth it. The crowd was friendly and supportive over the course of the entire set, which would have ended with “Cybele’s,” had we not been graced with a three-song encore that included “Bump” “Emergency Kisses” and “Stomach Worm.”
-- Tom Murphy
Stereolab Set List
Gothic Theatre, 10/14/08
02. Neon Beanbag
03. Eye of the Volcano
05. Chemical Chords
06. Ping Pong
07. Self Portrait With Electric Brain
08. Lo Boob Oscillator
09. The Ecstatic Static
10. Valley Hi!
11. Double Rocker
12. Silver Sands
13. French Disco
14. John Cage Bubblegum
15. Cybele’s Reverie
17. Emergency Kisses
18. Stomach Worm
Personal Bias: Stereolab is one of my favorite bands of all time.
Random Detail: Laetitia Sadier was playing Tim Gane’s Fender Music Master upside down and left-handed during Monade’s set.
By the Way: Some guy named Trevor caught one of the set lists Stereolab threw into the audience at the end of the show, and I asked him if I could cross reference it with my notes for accuracy.