It was billed as Five French Elves And A Marimba, but this was unique French prog outfit Lazuli turning on the style in North London.
First up however was Swindon lad George Wilding. Just him, his guitar and his floppy hair, evoking memories of Jeff Buckley at times, occasionally Nick Drake and sometimes something altogether a little more caustic. He’s only 18, so stage confidence will come in time, but his songs proved melodic (one running a little too close to David Bowie’s Jean Genie for comfort), and engaging and the reasonable sized crowd afforded him deserved attention. I look forward to seeing him perform again.
Talking of crown, tour promoter Nellie Pitts had voiced her frustration at getting punters to attend gigs in the UK of late, largely centred around having to cancel two of this run’s gigs even though those in the actual locations had requested the band perform. Obviously her cause wasn’t helped when Fish, who sings on the latest Lazuli album Tant que l’herbe est grasse, asked the band to support him on his forthcoming UK tour. Pitts offered to cancel the dates but the band insisted they fulfil their duties, but there was worry they’d be rewarded for their troubles with the worrying lack of interest some of the UK prog audience can sometimes display.
The Lexington could have been busier, but London did not let Lazuli (or Ms. Pitts for that matter) down. For their part, Lazuli repaid the faithful with another wonderful performance that anyone who’s ever seen these engaging Frenchman live will know is par for the course. This writer’s never been left anything but awestruck by their entertaining live show and dedication to their fine craft, even if the fact I spent my French lessons at school annoying whoever sat next to me or gazing out the window means I haven’t a clue what the band are actually signing about. Tonight’s engaging performance is made more pertinent when one considers mainman Dominique Leonetti has been suffering with a lost voice for the past week!
He’s in sublime form tonight, as are the rest of the band, with a set largely culled from the most recent album, but with the more than welcome presence of Je te laisse ce monde, Le miroir aux aulottes and* Les malveillants* from 2011’s [4063 battements]. Even more impressive (as always) is brother Claude on his self-made Leode, conjuring up some stunning sounds as Gederic Byar adds heavy weight on his guitar.
As ever, the band conclude the show with the jaw-dropping Nine Hands Around A Marimba, each band member displaying their highly dextrous skills on the titular instrument which never fails to draw rapturous applause from the audience. Those that made the effort were duly rewarded. If you balked at seeing them on this tour (which is a real pity, but equally your own prerogative), you should check them out, at best on the remaining dates of this current run, or at least when they tour with Fish. Because even if some of the UK prog crowd weren’t prepared to afford Lazuli a warm welcome, the band had no problem delivering the goods for those that did.