thu 30/05/2024

L'Impératrice, O2 Shepherds Bush review - delayed gratification | reviews, news & interviews

L'Impératrice, O2 Shepherds Bush review - delayed gratification

L'Impératrice, O2 Shepherds Bush review - delayed gratification

The nu-Bonapartes of cosmic disco finally make it to west London

© Gabrielle Riouah

Born in the bedroom of keyboard player Charles de Boisseguin, bathed in a sleek, quintessentially French tradition of electro-pop, L’Impératrice materialised on the darkened stage at the O2 Shepherds Bush, with glowing hearts beating in unison on their chests.

The beat quickened into a single tone to lead into “Off to the Side”, leaping from an intimate, near whispered opening to a snappy, electric chorus.

Postponed three times, the gig was initially advertised as the London leg of a world tour for the group’s “Matahari” debut album from 2019. It became instead an adrenaline-fuelled romp through their greatest hits, from the lazy wash of “Sonata Pacifique” (2014) through to the hit numbers from their latest “Tako Tsubo” album, and beyond to a couple of freshly minted instrumental solos.

Filling the stage with orange-red couture straight out of Studio 54 and the indefinable aura of panache, the five-guys-and-a-girl of L’Impératrice jumped into a sequence of melt-in-your-mouth disco riffs, led by vocalist Flore Benguigui. Take this line from “Off to the Side”: “Freedom’s just a point of view” embodies the group’s escapist vibe while striking a chord – or a nerve – in the current times.

A minimalist set of discs reflected the immaculately polished vibe of L’Impératrice, used to dazzling effect in an array of light displays, from a night sky for “La Lune”, to a deep aquamarine that filled the stage during “Submarine”: a mellow, steady melody, accented with their signature playful basslines which pumped a healthy shot of funk into each number.

Passing the mike between them. L'Impératrice worked hard to get the audience on side, with success limited by a language barrier (have the French teachers in West London gone on strike?). Banter with the crowd drew slightly confused cheers. “Peur des filles” (Fear of girls) got everyone to their feet, prefaced by Benguigui’s claim that all men have a girl inside them. Cue a few nervous laughs, and an enthusiastic if chaotic singalong with the chorus.

The law of diminishing returns applied to a steady increase of volume and energy through the course of the 70-minute set. Guitarists David Gaugué and Achille Trocellier kept lethargy at bay as a likeable pair, shimmying across the stage as though they had breezed in from a Jacques Demy musical. Once joined by drummer Tom Daveau, they reached a kind of suave Parisian nirvana.

The set drew to a close with “Agitations tropicales”, a punchy, bass-heavy track layered with smooth harmonies and glassy arpeggios, over which Benguigui’s voice glided effortlessly like one of her “Créatures astrales”. A crisp but dreamy, head-in-the-clouds tune and a fitting close for an all-inclusive extra-planetary summer holiday.

The five-guys-and-a-girl jumped into a sequence of melt-in-your-mouth disco riffs


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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