Guestpost! Mark takes on a linkfest with great performances by La Grande Sophie:
“La Grande Sophie est un spectacle à elle toute seule, tant sur le plan visuel que sur le plan vocal” Pub pour le festival Muzik’elles septembre 2012
La Grande Sophie is great in many ways, and not the least is that her concerts have the most dramatic start of any on the planet. Her band is in place in the dark, the sound and lighting build up, the first bars of ‘Ma Radio’ are heard, and suddenly there she is on the stage. Not Sophie la giraffe as she once laughingly called herself, or the Amazon which her self-given name suggests, but a perfect figure: a mane of dark hair, bare white arms and flashing eyes, in a short black dress and dark heeled boots. At 43, and 1m78 (‘5 pieds 10 pouces’ to Canadians; 6 ft in heels), she has a wonderful elegance.
In the summer of 2012, her dramatic festival appearances, 1½ hours, drew more and more people , and her concert list got longer and longer – it now runs to July 2013. By last November, at Mouscron (BE), Sophie’s show was 2 hours long, with 2 rappels, and this for an audience of 400. No other artiste has such a reach into the heart of both France and Belgium, in local theatres and halls. Her public sees her close-up, and experiences her now-celebrated ‘descente dans la salle’ while singing ‘Petite Princesse’.
What has happened to take Sophie Huriaux, former student of sculpture at the Collège des Beaux-Arts at Marseille, from rock, and aspiring to be the Chrissie Hynde of France until 2008, to the summit of French pop in 2012, winner of best album at the 2013 Victoires de la Musique ? She has described how she turned acoustic and changed her singing voice for her 2009 album ‘Des vagues et des ruisseaux’. ‘Quand le mois d’avril’ in this 2009 performance is just one example. In fact the change of public image was sudden – her appearance on MyTaratata in April 2009, with ‘Quelqu’un d’autre’. Since then she has not looked back. ‘La Place du Fantôme’ (2012) has built on this, and is a worthy winner of Les Victoires.
LGS is now a strong, versatile and yet sensitive performer. Her confidence means she starts her concerts with not one but two slow songs: ‘Ma Radio’ (whose lyrics are so clear that they hardly need translation), and then the ethereal, rarely-filmed ‘Tu fais ton âge’.
She holds back until the heart of her concerts her top track ‘Ne m’oublie pas’. This pop set-piece can be seen in a big-festival version at L’Hôtel de Ville, Paris, last summer; sung in the most fabulous dress on MyTaratata
in March 2012; stunningly performed in October with the musicians of Belle et Bum, Montreal; and with a string quartet in 2013.
‘Sucrer les fraises’, a song about old age, whose lyric she loves to discuss, has developed already, from the original acoustic on the album, into a striking new synthetised version (‘une version d’été’ LGS called it after first trialling it unannounced at Gourville (Charente) last June). See the video filmed at La Ciotat here, and LGS’s joy in its latest Paris performance.
And there is much more, including Barbara’s classic ‘Dis, quand reviendra-tu ?’ as a guitar solo – the leading 21st century interpretation of one of the 20th century’s greatest songs. And surprises, such as the France Gall hit ‘Laisse Tomber les Filles’ duetted with Ornette at La Cigale last month.
What makes LGS so good?
• Artistic talent – she studied sculpture – brilliant songwriting, fine arranging, a much improved voice
• Years of experience, giving her consistency, and ability to maintain a constant high standard of live performance through a tour of 120 concerts over 18 months
• Drawing on both Anglophone pop and the great French tradition of chanson
• Superbly crafted songs with strong instrumental sections, and she ends songs well
• Expert use of a very skilled four-piece band, and as good with just her own guitar
• Readiness to ‘remodel’ her older songs with new arrangements
• An attractive appearance on stage – she has talked about how important this is now
• An engaging personality, ready to give interviews and always positive
• An appeal to both sexes and a wide range of ages
One 40-something female fan sums her up here – “Belle, généreuse, et talentueuse – vive la quarantaine”. LGS is open about being “obsessed by the passage of time”; but likes to say that she has frozen it for herself: ‘J’ai arrêté le temps’. She gave up sculpture for music, because she wanted to succeed in ‘un art moins élitiste, plus populaire’. She has certainly achieved her aim.
For the world as seen by LGS and her fan base, visit www.facebook.com/LGSOfficiel