sat 24/10/2020

-M-, KOKO | reviews, news & interviews

-M-, KOKO

-M-, KOKO

Stadium-filling French superstar brings his art rock to bijou north London venue

Mathieu Chédid aka -M-: a muscial cubist Nicolas Guerin

Definitely not the M that hit with “Pop Muzik” in 1979 and then swiftly vanished. This –M- is a bona fide, stadium-filling superstar. In France, that is. In Camden though, last night, Mathieu Chédid confounded any expectations of what stadium rock ought to be. The evening was rounded off by Chédid and his band dancing in a line to a playback of last year’s single “Mojo”, just as they’d done in the video. They make open and shut gestures with their hands, mimicking a mouth.

Definitely not the M that hit with “Pop Muzik” in 1979 and then swiftly vanished. This –M- is a bona fide, stadium-filling superstar. In France, that is. In Camden though, last night, Mathieu Chédid confounded any expectations of what stadium rock ought to be. The evening was rounded off by Chédid and his band dancing in a line to a playback of last year’s single “Mojo”, just as they’d done in the video. They make open and shut gestures with their hands, mimicking a mouth. The audience do the same. Pity that this often bewildering and sold-out show, the first of –M-’s two-night London run, was played to a largely French crowd. It would have been telling to see the reaction of less partisan spectators to this subversion of what constitutes a concert.

Finishing a two-hour-plus set in a venue less than a tenth of the size of those he’d normally play by dancing along with his own music wasn’t the only confusing instance during the show. Half an hour in, a beautiful, soaring, Curtis Mayfield-evoking rendition of “Océan” – like “Mojo”, from last year’s Îl album - suggested the evening was following on an upward arc, heading towards lighters-aloft territory. Then the mood took an about turn with a dive into reggae which diddled along until it was punctuated with some fretwork torn from the Steve Vai workbook.

His M-shaped specs light up and there was a polite piece of crowd surfing

A musical magpie, Chédid draws from hip-hop, Seventies soul and blues rock, often in the same song. During the encore, he and his two musical accomplices tackled Îl’s “Baia”. Brazil is in there too. Big-in-France Brit Charlie Winston is brought on for a headlong rush through Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”. Beyond a five-song section behind a piano – performed from a balcony box - there was no ebb and flow or rise and fall to this show. Chédid structured it like a revue, showcasing the music he loves, bringing it together like a cubist's take on a concert. Then it dawns. He’s the French Beck.

Chédid made an instant impact with his first album as –M- in 1997, although he had been heard as a kid on a 1978 single by his dad, the singer, composer and author Louis Chédid. His grandmother was the poet and author Andrée Chédid. His background must have given him a boost; Mathieu Chédid is now integral to French culture. He has been behind albums by Vanessa Paradis, Johnny Hallyday and Brigitte Fontaine. He's also worked with Sean Lennon and Amadou & Mariam. Typically though, as with a lot of French music that is actually French and for French people, he hasn’t made much of a dent in the Anglo world. Ditching his Flock of Seagulls hair, elaborate costumery and flamboyant staging a few years ago means there’s now less to distract from the man and his music, which is a very, very good thing.

Previously, the live –M- experience was coloured by the expectation that what would be on stage would be like a circus, more about spectacle than the music. Now with his stripped down band, it’s about the music and not much else. His M-shaped specs light up and there was a polite piece of crowd surfing, but that’s about as far as it went for showbiz pizazz.

Anyone who thinks French pop isn’t worth bothering with needs to experience this idiosyncratic art rock as soon as possible. Working out how Chédid took this to stadium level will have to wait.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch -M- perform "Océan", from îl

The evening was rounded off by Chédid and his band dancing to a playback of last year’s single 'Mojo'

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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