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Revolver at Amoeba on Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Revolver’s le Rock et Roll

Over the weekend, I went to three concerts, I went from Motörhead to Revolver, from loudness and sound blasting to delicate singing harmonies, from the army tank dimension of music to some light-as-feather tunes. But it’s alright for me, music can take many shapes and forms, without losing its magical power, and rock and roll is not always about screaming and ‘gueuler’ as we say it in French.

The French trio Revolver was doing an in-store mini concert at Amoeba on Sunday night, and I was a bit surprised to see that a few people were acting as if they were already familiar with them. I have been to Amoeba quite often, and I cannot say I have seen many French artists, so the three Parisians can be proud. Sure, the fact that they sing all their songs in English helps a lot, but at this point I think the crowd was connecting more because of the beautiful harmonies than the language of the lyrics.

Christophe Musset (vocals and guitar), Ambroise Willaume (vocals and guitar), and Jérémie Arcache (cello and vocals) were smiling, visibly happy to be there as they said it a few times, probably still amazed they were living their American dream. They explained it was their first US tour, after almost two years of touring Europe, with a few dates on the west coast before going to the massive band migration that is SXSW.

They sat quietly on chairs arranged in an open circle after a short introduction describing their music: The Beatles? The Kinks? Simon and Garfunkel? The Beach Boys? Definitively, all of the above, they have absorbed one way or another the work of their musical heroes, the vocal harmonies that they perform with three voices, the only apparently simple and catchy melodies are there to prove it. These guys are able to allude to the Beatles and the Kinks in the same song, without coming up with a too obvious imitation (what about this Liam Gallagher?)… just listen to ‘Balulalow’.

And Elliott Smith whom they mention in all their interviews? I heard him, subtly showing up in a harmony or a guitar riff, like in the ooo-ooos of ‘Parallel Lives’ chorus, or in the quiet and melancholic ending of ‘it’s alright’.
But also in the lyrics! ‘You lay there till the end of the day/Hiding away a few needles in the hay’ they harmonized in the bittersweet ‘Balulalow’,… may be a too transparent allusion to Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle in the Hay, but when it’s done with such sincerity…

Their set was all about calm melodies, skillful guitars and also that cello which was giving another dramatic dimension to an exercise done many times before. With a background of classical music training, they have declared many times their admiration for 17th century Baroque British composer Henry Purcell, a not too surprising idea when you see them live.

Beside their songs – ‘Balulalow’, ‘Leave me alone’, ‘Luke, Mike & John’, Parallel Lives’, It’s alright’, ‘Get around town’, among others – they did a Crosby Stills and Nash’s cover, ‘Helplessly Hoping’ and their three-voice harmonies were absolutely right on. In these auto-tune times, how refreshing and comforting to hear people still doing it authentically and without any artifice!
Sure this is neither music for the arenas nor stadium rock, it’s subtle and intimate, but I heard they sometimes invite a drummer to carry their tunes into a new level.

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