(Royal Wedding!) Live Review: Chapel Club at Point Ephemere, Paris – 21st April 2011

By on Friday, 29th April 2011 at 12:00 pm

Editor’s note: There are two reasons we’re posting this Chapel Club gig review on the day of the Royal Wedding: 1, many people get married in chapels, and 2, a lot of people go to Paris on their honeymoon (it is the City of Romance, after all).

Okay okay. Those reasons are tenuous. Still, this is a really great review. (I wish I’d been there. And I imagine there must be some of you who would have wished to be at today’s wedding.)

Words and in-text photo by Linn Branson

As the sun sets over Paris on a warm spring evening, along the banks of the Quai de Valmy drinkers are relaxing on the riverfront taking in the cool night air at the start of the long Easter break. It may not have been apparent to many that amongst them were various members of the night’s headlining act at the popular Point FMR arts venue that stands back off the cobbled walkway.

Chapel Club last played in the French capital in November, then as a little-known indie Brit band that despite being only second on the bill had already started to create faint ripples in their home country through singles such as ‘O Maybe I’ and ‘All The Eastern Girls’ and UK radio airplay. Their return comes on the last night of a (partially sell-out) 16-date European tour and in the wake of their debut album ‘Palace’ released at the end of January (TGTF review here, interview with frontman Lewis Bowman here). By the sparsity of the audience, they may still be largely unknown in this part of Europe, with French quintet Her Magic Wand drawing in the locals for their opening support set; a number of those present admitted they had only come across Chapel Club via radio airplay.

A small audience perhaps, but undoubtedly an appreciative – and attentive – one who, by the end of the night, had been roused a little from their laissez-faire to raise hands and dance a little. Maybe it is a French thing, but noticeable was the fact whilst in the UK it is a rarity to attend a gig without spending the entire evening with one ear attuned to the artist on stage and the other trying to drown out ongoing personal conversations, if any was taking place at Point FMR, it was done so unobtrusively that it did not detract one iota from the music.

They punctuated their set with later material such as ‘Roads’ and ‘Bodies’ segued in between the likes of ‘Surfacing’ and ‘All the Eastern Girls’. These new songs may have been lost on those unfamiliar with the change of direction, both musically and lyrically, that the band have already taken with the newer material but they don’t make the set any less vital.

Kicking off with ‘Surfacing’ (previously declared the Hottest Record in the World by Radio1’s Zane Lowe), it has become one of Chapel Club’s best-loved live songs; dangling the “dream a little dream of me” line tantalisingly into a song preceded by the darker line of “bodies swinging in the sycamore tree”. As with most bands, attention is naturally drawn predominantly toward the frontman, and in this case without co-vocalists or harmonies Lewis Bowman carries this full weight of burden. But ultimately Chapel Club is a guitar band, and with the two guitarists and bassist, each are given moments in which to shine, notably with Alex Parry on ‘Paper Thin’ and the duelling guitars of Liam Arklie (on bass) and Michael Hibbert on ‘O Maybe I’. ‘Fine Light’, meanwhile, is determined by Rich Mitchell’s pulsing and commanding drum beat opening that carries you to a midway point where the pace moves up several notches with the sirenesque guitars that direct it along at the speed of light. Forthcoming new single ‘Blind’ provides yearning guitar riffs, crashing drum start and the baritone vocal of Bowman to bleed hearts and looks destined to build up the Club’s status further over the coming months.

It’s always a chancer when you choose to include an 8-minute long song in a live set, and ‘Widows’ has proved a tricky one for Bowman in the past, with it having been described at various times as both ‘over-indulgent’ and ‘epic’. Tonight he decided to take the risk – and it works. No doubt pleasing the Parisians present, he leads into it by commenting how he formed the lyric whilst on a previous visit to Paris, walking through Porte de Clignancourt. ‘Widows’ may possibly be Chapel Club’s best work to date: dramatic lifts of achingly mournful guitars sweeping behind a meltingly soulful vocal that never once loses its hold on the audience.

‘The Shore’, one of their earliest written songs, closes what has been a worthy set provided by a band that may still be un petit groupe in France, but with the makings of bigger things yet to come. Certainement, mais oui!

The set list is available after the cut.

Set List:

Fine Light
O Maybe I
Paper Thin
All the Eastern Girls
Five Trees
The Shore

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[…] 16th May 2011 at 6:00 pm Chapel Club, who have been slowly taking over TGTF this year with live reviews, album reviews and interviews, have released a video for their new single ‘Blind’. […]

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