Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sat 13 Jan.
Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains are a four-piece band led by quirky, charismatic Frànçois Marry, on guitar and vocal (and occasional piano). Frànçois talks to the audience in fluent English, but the songs are with few exceptions in French. Frànçois jokes that they have been described as coming from the land of romanticism and nuclear submarines. There is playfulness in his patter that is also apparent in the music and stage presentation. He thanks the guitar techs for finding him three guitars to play – red, (almost) white and blue!
The songs are largely drawn from their recent album Solide Mirage. After a quiet start the band launches into Grand Dérèglement featuring some jaunty synchronised dancing between Frànçois and bass player/percussionist Amaury Ranger – a little unexpected at first, but such dance moves continue to feature throughout the set.
Introducing the song 1982, which Frànçois describes as having been a good year for wine, he lets the audience know that he is enjoying a nice drop of Clare Valley red on stage.
Songs such as Apocalyse à Ipsos set gentle melodic grooves during the verses in which the vocals are clearly heard which then erupt into rhythmic choruses, quite African hi-life at times, with infectious guitar hooks, impossible to resist some serious foot tapping. When Ranger moves from bass to percussion, the rhythms he strikes up with drummer John Theverin are powerful and effecting. It’s easy to imagine them taking the stage at WOMADelaide…
Vocals and harmonies are important, as demonstrated by all four members making good use of their vocal mics, but special mention needs to be made of some gorgeous falsetto lines provided by keyboard player Gerard Black, which take the vocals to another dimension.
‘Are those chairs comfortable?’ Frànçois asks, perhaps a little unused to playing to a seated audience. Certainly the infectious rhythms underpinning these songs are made for dancing. But this is Dunstan Playhouse and the audience remains seated.
Having never heard of Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains until a few days before this performance I can only add that I was more than pleasantly surprised, and that Solide Mirage will remain a favourite on the playlist for some time to come.
Note: Click on the song titles to view official music clips