The idea behind the band Nouvelle Vague is to play songs from the new wave and early punk era like bossa nova or Brazilian lounge music, with sexy French ladies handling the vocals. Nouvelle Vague (the brainchild of French producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux) has recorded some lovely, quirky covers on its three albums, although the whole concept is pretty gimmicky. The shtick wears thin after a while, but it’s enjoyable for a song or two or three.
The touring version of Nouvelle Vague came to Chicago Friday night for a show at Lincoln Hall. And how can you go wrong when you’ve got a couple of sexy French ladies singing cool old songs that we all like? (Well, a lot of like those songs, anyway.) It was fun hearing songs like XTC’s “Making Plans for Nigel,” the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton” and Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love?” done up in this style.
The group records in the studio with a revolving cast of singers, but it had just two on tour. I don’t believe they ever got introduced during the show, which seems like a weird oversight. Or maybe they were supposed to be sort of anonymous? I’m told these two were Helena Noguerra and Karina Zeviani. Whoever they were, they did a fine job singing these songs, shaking their hair and striking poses, while the band played light versions of these tunes that used to rock hard. It was quite entertaining for a while, although it was still, in the end, a bit of a gimmick.
Nouvelle Vague was nicely paired with an opening act that sings some songs in French, Clare and the Reasons. As in previous Chicago gigs, this delightful trio delivered cool, jazzy pop music with some funny stage banter and a lot of personality in between the songs. It was too bad to hear that their vehicle was broken into during this visit to Chicago. Hope they don’t get scared off from visiting again soon.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: I’m informed that one of the two singers I referred to above as French ladies (Karina Zeviani) is actually Brazilian.