Review and photography by John Bentley.
Stereolab, the ‘avant-pop’ band formed by Laetitia Sadier and Tim Gane back in 1990, have been on hiatus since 2009, since when Laetitia has embarked on a solo career. Last month saw the release of ‘Finding Me Finding You’, the first album released as Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble. Speaking on Marc Riley’s 6 Music programme last week, Laetitia indicated that, as she was working long-term with a trusty group of accomplished musicians, she felt she should release an album under a collective band moniker. So the current tour is a band outing promoting the new Source Ensemble album.
Support band Batsch are from Coventry and are a good musical pairing with Laetitia tonight. The four-piece play rhythmically complex funky prog-dance-pop, a sort of fusion of Orange Juice and Dutch Uncles. They’re great to watch and listen to, with much accomplished musicianship and good ideas along the way, and they are later complimented by Laetitia herself. The drumming in particular is superb.
The front of the stage and the monitors are covered with shiny, glittery fabric, but there’s little other embellishment as Laetitia Sadier and the band take to the stage. Since going solo she’s learnt to play the guitar: she’s left-handed and plays a normal guitar up-side down, just like Hendrix. On bass is Xavi Muñoz, on percussion (and occasional keyboards) is Emmanuel Mario and, newcomer to the band, Nina Savary plays keyboards.
Tonight’s gig is all about the present band and album and there are no nostalgic trips back into Stereolab territory. However, the band’s instrumental style, philosophical / socio-political lyrical content and, particularly, Sadier’s distinctive French-inflected vocals are never far away from the Stereolab root. The music seems mostly sparser and more minimal than Stereolab, but the new material contains some lovely melodies and some very effective harmony singing by all the band members.
The gig kicks-off with the rhythmically repetitive ‘Undying Love for Humanity’, certainly a song that Stereolab could have recorded. The evening takes us on a trip through most of the new album and demonstrates the versatility and ‘togetherness’ of Sadier’s multi-national band. It’s difficult to pick any particular song as standing out, as it’s very much a band showpiece. However, I particularly enjoy ‘Reflectors’, which seems to shimmer along rather deliciously. Then there’s the encore, for which Sadier brings out ‘Then I Will Love You Again’, a musically-dense and tense-sounding stand-out track from 2014’s ‘Something Shines’, Superb!
As the evening progresses Laetitia seems more and more relaxed and is clearly charmed by the enthusiastic response of the audience at The Trades Club. After the encore and just when we all thought it was time to go home, she comes back out again. “As a band that’s all we know, but I can play you one on my own if you like”, she says. Yes please, is the response. So, accompanying herself on the guitar, she plays us a delightful and wistful version of George Gershwin’s classic ‘Summertime’. Accessible and down-to-earth, she leaves the stage and heads over to the merchandise desk to chat to audience members.