After squeezing through an almost impenitrable crowd (receiving pokes and evil eyes as a reward for my aggression) I finally managed to get a good view of the stage at the Reykjavík Art Museum when Nouvelle Vague was performing their second song that evening, Ever Falling in Love, originally recorded by the Manchester punk-rock group Buzzcocks. For me, it was hard not to fall in love with the band at that exact moment.
Founded by the duo Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, Nouvelle Vague’s name, translating as new wave in French and bossa nova in Portuguese, gives a hint on what they set out to do, making bossa nova versions of classic new wave hits from the 80s. With great help from numerous contributing singers they’ve managed to bring new life to saintly-classics and by doing so, they’ve gained a huge following among former punks as well as those who’ve never even heard of the originals.
The show at the Reykjavík Art Museum attracted a mixed crowd, young and middleaged fans who were all there to enjoy the feel-good music. Two singers wiggled in the spotlight, dressed in black sexy dresses and addressing the audience while the founding members sat quietly in the background, occasionally grinning at the crowd.
Collin and Lidaux are both excellent musicians, and special praise has to be given to the drummer that evening, but the stars of the night were undeniably the two female singers, Melanie Pain and Phoebe Killdeer, both incredible songbirds, with very distinct voices and stage presence. Pain’s innocent, sometimes childlike voice is a total opposite to Killdeer’s more masculine and powerful vocals and aggressive attitude. Watching her swing her long dark hair while twitching and turning back and forth she reminded me of an angry beast trying to break loose from bonds. That harmonized surprisingly well with Pain’s more polite character.
During the whole show the two divas kept the audience attentive, especially when performing the Dead Kennedy’s Too Drunk To Fuck, Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and The Specials’ Friday Night, Saturday Morning, all leading up to a raucous sing-along. This was clearly a well-rehearsed routine, maybe a little too much so at times.
Melanie Pain’s performance of Smith’s classic Sweet and Tender Hooligan, supported only by the guitarist, was wonderfully emotional, where she almost whispered the lyrics. Other highlights of the evening included the interpretation of Teenage Kicks backed by the Brazilian bossa nova beats, and the perkier Dance with Me and Blondie’s Heart of Glass.
Overall, the show was a relaxed one-anda- half hour entertainment, featuring two encores and almost all of their most popular covers, songs that the crowd new all so well. Although The Art Museum isn’t the greatest venue for this kind of an event, (I would have loved to witness the band performing while sitting in some dark, retro-style Parisian jazz café with a glass of red wine) it was all just so freakin’ fabulous and not a dull second passed, leaving me with no choice but to admire the band even more.