LE VENT DU NORD live at South Hill Park, Bracknell

Le Vent Du Nord
Photograph by Dai jeffries

Smoke swirled over the darkened stage as four shadowy figures took their places. The sound began with the drone of a hurdy-gurdy, joined by fiddle, jew’s harp and voice and lastly bouzouki. Finally the lights came up to reveal Le Vent Du Nord in all their splendour. It was an uncharacteristically sombre opening to an evening that was full of laughs.

I usually come home from a gig with a fairly accurate set-list and other notes about who did what. No chance here. The band only introduced a few of their pieces and then usually in rapid French. I fell back on plan B and tried to blag a set-list from keyboardist Nicolas Boulerice but they don’t use one. He did offer to write one up for me, though, and that’s not an offer you get every day. They did tell us that most of the material would come from their most recent album, Têtu, as did ‘Confédération’, the first song they announced by name, having a dig at Anglophone Canadians in the process.

In fact, the announcements in the first half took the form of a debate, which apparently the band had, about whether Têtu should have a terminal “s”. Everyone had to have a say in turn and the running joke got funnier and funnier. I did figure out the unaccompanied ‘La March Des Iroquois’ and ‘Petit Rêve IX’, an almost orchestral piece which begins with a lovely guitar solo played by its composer, fiddler Olivier Demers and they closed the first set with an oldie, ‘Lanlaire’.

Several things stuck in the mind after the gig. The first is the interplay of the four voices. They can stack up harmonies, pick up lines from each other and occasionally sing over each other. The second is that they do the same with melodies, passing a tune from fiddle to melodeon, to hurdy-gurdy and even jew’s harp. Finally comes the energy and fun they bring to their music. Quebecois music is, to say the least, lively and they throw everything they have into it. I was surprised that Demers, who is responsible for most of the foot percussion, was still standing at the end.

The second set opened with ‘Le Cœur De Ma Mère’ and the time just flew past. There was a bizarre moment when Demers played us a country song in French – from his iPhone – before the band sang an unaccompanied and rather more stately version. ‘Forillon’ is one of their more serious songs and they did it full justice. This isn’t a history lesson but you should look up the story. Nico introduced a song with a long, involved story about a song he found in his attic in a hand-written manuscript, learned it and performed it in France only to be told that it was a famous Parisian song that may have derived from mediaeval English. It seems that his “manuscript” was probably copied down from the radio! It was a love song but Nico neglected to name it.

Le Vent Du Nord
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

After a wild instrumental finish, they encored with the traditional ‘Vive L’Amour’ and another unaccompanied and unannounced song – perhaps I should have taken Nico up on his offer. Their performance richly deserved the standing ovation and the cheers they received. Do try to hear them while they are on tour here.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://leventdunord.com/en/

We’re spoiling you now – four live songs from Le Vent Du Nord:

JIM MORAY – folking live concert review…

JIM MORAY, Black Peak: 
Folking Live at Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell – October 24th 2012.

Reviewed by Colin Bailey.

It was the first time a Folking Live event had taken place in the august surroundings of the Wilde Theatre at South Hill Park, and expectations were high. We even applauded promoter Phil Daniels as he came on stage to introduce the evening. For this auspicious occasion the support act were the planned Cellar Bar headliners for January 2013, Black Peak. Darren Black and Deborah Peake, masterfully accompanied by Chris Gatland on bass and percussion, played a fair number of the tracks from their first full-length CD In Times Back When, and were well received. Darren’s delicately modulated vocals and accomplished guitar work along with Deborah’s strong yet restrained fiddle playing perfectly suited their pastorally tinged songs of social conscience.

Jim Moray is a walking folk encyclopedia and gave us fulsome background information to each carefully chosen song he played. After opening with the plaintive “night visiting song” ‘Three Black Feathers’, he moved into the only “happy ever after song” he claimed to know, ‘Jenny Of The Moor’. ‘Hind Etin’ from this year’s acclaimed Skulk was the first Child Ballad of the night, and ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’ from the same album took us even further along the path of morose though brilliantly executed songs. While he remained at the piano, the mood was somewhat lifted through a shift from older trad material to the lyrically more contemporary ‘Poverty Knock’. A slightly up-tempo rendition of his Skulk version of ‘Horkstow Grange’ was delivered complete with synthesised 4 part harmony (à la Percy Grainger wax cylinder recording).

Introduced as a happy song from his home county of Staffordshire, ‘The Golden Glove’ was performed on bouzar (or was it a gazouki?) One curiosity was an early song of his own, ‘Adam Ant Alone In His Padded Cell’, played as a country song as he thought that’s how Adam would like it! Given the sad news that Dundonian singer-songwriter Michael Marra had died the day previously, we listened with mixed emotions to Marra’s noted anti-war song ‘Happed In Mist’. Showcasing his voice to excellent effect, the high spot of the evening was ‘If It’s True’ from Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown folk opera (in which Jim had played the part of Orpheus). ‘Lord Douglas’ was another vocal highlight, featuring lovely accompaniment. As we moved towards the end, Jim engaged the crowd to join in with the chorus of Bruce Molsky’s ‘Peg And Awl’. The last song of the set, sung for his hero Nic Jones, was ‘Billy Don’t You Weep For Me’ and was a tour-de-force. We ended the evening altogether on a light note with the song he’d written for his sister, Jackie Oates, ‘Wishfulness Waltz’. Not only a leading innovator in today’s folk world, this was an accomplished performer, still scaling the peaks. The evening was a fine showcase for the potential of high-quality events of this genre on the Wilde Theatre stage.

“One of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com

Artist Web link: http://jimmoray.co.uk/