Review: Olivier Libaux Uncovered QOTSA

Olivier Libaux

Olivier Libaux Uncovered QOTSA
Silencio, Paris, France
11th July, 2013

“Silencio. Silencio. Silencio!” The cries of Rita in her sleep for the elusive Silencio club in Mulholland Drive. Walking into the Parisian replica, David Lynch’s dreams on film were now rampant and real. Accompanying me was filmmaker, Ling Ang, as we traversed down an innumerable amount of stairs; the only illumination were the lit black and white photographs on the walls. Girls outside begging for entry to the exclusive members only club, claiming previous patronage and dropping names that I did not recognise.

This was our introduction to ‘Olivier Libaux Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age. ‘

Finding our way in the mini labyrinth that is Silencio, we made our way to the bar which was in the room beside the main stage. A stage, might I add, that perfectly resembled a smaller version of the stage in the actual Mulholland Drive film – as Lynch intended. Cocktails in hand, as we entered the main performance room the velvet red curtains instantaneously opened. Before us in this ever-so intimate room was Olivier Libaux (Nouvelle Vague), Nathalie Réaux (Pagan Poetry) and Juliette Paquereau (Diving With Andy).

Considering the somewhat all-star cast, there was very little about the set that I could actually fault. It was my great fortune to have heard the songs of Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age first as a live performance with upstanding female singers like Réaux and Paquereau. Who, in their own respective collectives, have achieved musical and critical acclaim already. In addition to vocals, Réaux was also the percussionist for the evening using a floor tom and other small hand held instruments.

Libaux seems to have quite a knack for bringing together befitting singers to contribute to his portrayals of these timeless songs. As is true to his style, there is a lot of dissonance and minor key changes that add a kind of beautifully eery and creepy feeling to his songs – they are his songs. Though, this can only be noted as a feeling more than a repetition of previous song structures. You listen to this album (and, I heard it in this set) and you feel the familiarity to the style of Nouvelle Vague’s covers, but they are all distinctly different songs. The similarities and that familiarity that you hear is in the ambience that Libaux manages to deliver every time.

Though, there were songs like, “Go With The Flow,” “No One Knows” and “Medication” that had a subtle signature “French pop” to it, the most stand-out song to me was “I Never Came.” In the original Queens of the Stone Ages version, Josh Homme sings of both internal and palpable turmoil with that of whom he loves. The song diverges into denial and acceptance, anger and salvaging of pride, which Libaux has managed to intensify with his interpretation. As is what I can say for most of the songs in his set, Libaux really taps into the raw feeling of the song and puts it on display. After seeing and hearing this live, I almost felt as though my own mind was being lost and the daunting feeling of that loss was brought to me that night.

What is most deserving of notoriety is Libaux moving from one collective that exclusively covers great musicians and songs to another collective that did so, but with just one band – most songs that were from the same album. I was fortunate to catch the set where both Réaux and Paquereau were the singers. Although they differ quite substantially in vocal styling and ranges, there was a huge complimenting harmony between Paquereau’s melancholic mezzo soprano and Réaux’s tender yet emphatic vocals.

A large part of me wants to label this gig as a very professional one, however, that word is only incited because it was a gig that was delivered by a very gifted and humble group of musicians. One almost felt as though they just came together to play for friends. In such an intimate venue, any mistake or fumbling fingers would have been heard – though, none were. Just talented musicians and singers that made music for a night. There were no theatrics or overly inflamed egos, there was no boisterous crowd. Only music lovers who came to listen to an unforgettable and awe-inspiring set.

Uncovered Queens of the Stone Ages sports on the album another set of impressive female singers such as Morcheeba’s Skye, Clare Manchon of Clare and the Reasons, Inara George of Bird and the Bee and Katharine Whalen of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

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