Last Friday I ventured out to the Nuits du Sud Music Festival held each summer in the main square of the village of Vence..... (not to be confused with the over-commercialized St Paul de Vence).
Vence has a good venue for the concerts, with an intimate and a well appointed stage.... but next year I will check out both bands beforehand to see if the lead-in group is worth the wait. Its a long night for 2 full length concerts and we weren't home till well past midnight.
The first offering was a group from "down under" called Blue King Brown. It consisted of quite accomplished individuals but that night playing for us as if they had had no rehearsal, no director, no sound check and no video playback to help them out . This concert was a sound mix of rap, reggae, and rock. Unfortunately, though, it's as if all the musicians were playing alone with no regard for the whole sound.
When the saucy, prancing, Australian lead finally gave the players their solos in the last half hour, we found out that she is a fabulous conga drummer, much better than a singer / song-writer/ guitar player.
We found out that her two back up singers were more accomplished than she at singing but had been entirely drowned- out. And we found out that all the musicians were good soloists... especially the percussionists. Unfortunately, the bass guitar dominated throughout the Blue King Brown concert, the lyrics (when we could understand them) were banal and uninspired, ( against government, war, poverty, etc ), the volume was 'off the charts", and the lights and dry- ice gimmicks did nothing to hide the over-all lack of musicality.
If you look on You -tube you will find some excerpts from Blue King Brown in which the lyrics are clear and one is given a better impression of this band. Who knows what difficulties they may have had setting up in Vence? But in general, lead bands are not up to the standard of the main event and this one wasn't even close.
However, my friends, my disappointment was entirely dispelled by the main act of the evening,The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, who gave us two hours of the most passion and exuberance that I have experienced coming from one group. Their music is sublime.
And the dancing of the three singers is so infectious that one starts bumping in one's chair. Not many listeners could remain still throughout. We were all doing some semblance of salsa in the aisles by the end of the evening!
I am in love with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra's love of what they do. They are a group of very accomplished players with a maturity of musicianship and they exude the joy of their music.
Just watch a few minutes of the video above (which does nothing to deliver the quality of the music played) and you will get some idea. Suffice it to say their new album won a grammy and most of you already know this group so I don't need to go on and on.
Another fun aside to this festival is the restaurant or snack option for a meal before the concert. We took the snack option with the new concept: French Panini !
For 7.50 euros we got a choice of Panini with fois gras, truffle cream, duck breast , vegetables or ham...five different combos, all with grated cheese to hold the heated delicacy together.
And with that for the "formule" we got a glass of white or rose champagne, soda or beer.
You will smile or gag, one or the other. We smiled as we sat munching on the roadside with our champagne perched on a bollard.
One of the ironies of France... is epitomized by sitting on the ground as lady-like as possible, eating fois gras out of an Italian sandwich and drinking a glass of bubbly.