Laetitia Sadier at Rough Trade East
Admitting, herself, that she had been rather stuck for time to rehearse; Lætitia Sadier played a charming, if quite unpolished set. The performance’s saving grace was her gregarious and shining personality which brought out a lot in her music.
The French musician, formerly known for being the singer of alternative band Stereolab, sings about love, beauty, art and politics. Her music is haunting and harkens back to a sense of 60s French glamour – Sadier’s voice is like a rawer Françoise Hardy. Her 2010 solo album, The Trip, has always sounded like it could be the soundtrack to some arty film.
Here, however, without her backing band and without much practice, her songs lose much of the flair they have on the albums. To say the least, they don’t translate so well with just her and an electric guitar. She starts with Find Me the Pulse of the Universe, on the album and brilliant cocktail of grooves and beats, but here it sounds a little bland. Ceci Est Le Coeur is better, maybe because she’s singing in French and everything sounds cooler in French, but it’s also better paced.
Her set takes a turn for the better when she introduces her “politics” section: “we should all be angry at what we see on the television screens”. Auscultation of the Nation and The Rule of the Game, the latter named after the Jean Renoir film, resonates a sort of Bob Dylan anger at the lack of democracy in the world. The two would certainly fit well in a 60s folk protest.
“I’m going to play a Stereolab song next”, she says, and covers International Colouring Contest, a short pretty song brimming with astronomic culture. Statues Can Bend gives the set a darker tone, she says: “this song is about people with hard hearts, but I’m sure that’s none of you”. It’s one of the more haunting songs, her voice lingers at the end a little and the poignancy is immediate. She ends with The Swim, which she adoringly introduces with “because I’m going swimming tomorrow”. Probably the best of her set, the song is dreamy and her voice is gorgeously floaty.
Lætitia Sadier herself was delightful and her friendliness with the audience kept them entertained and included. Despite the lack of preparation she was very much the professional, she quipped: “next time you see me I will have rehearsed”. So it’s unfortunate that this time round her set was less than impressive, with songs marred with uncertainty and anti-climax. In many ways the performance has a little Elliot Smith about it: the sad, subtle crooning and the solo guitar – but Sadier’s music works so much better when with a band, to invoke some flamboyance to it.
Listen to Find Me the Pulse of the Universe by Lætitia Sadier here