Full Gallery: Wax Tailor at Le Trianon
Thursday night was the afternoon back home, with friends and families wrapped around dining tables decked in the finest kitchenware that’s only used once a year. Thanksgiving back home is that time when you catch up with distant family, and cross your fingers that uncle doesn’t walk through the door to threaten Randy Quaid’s classic performance in Christmas Vacation. Now, if you’re living abroad, you’re obviously working that day, attempting to sneak peeks at the Macy’s Christmas Day Parade through a live video feed on CNN with no audio commentary, avoiding Instagram’s cornucopia of filtered turkey photos, and waiting for the moment to Skype back home. Well…thankfully this year it was made better by being able to attend the premier trip-hop artist of France, Wax Tailor’s concert. His superb cinematic blend of hip-hop, jazz and a magnificent lineup of international vocal talent (Mattic is from America, and his latest album Dusty Rainbow from the Dark features Elysian Fields’ singer Jennifer Charles, among others) has won over festival and concert audiences with the latest having two capacity concerts at le Trianon at the base of Montmartre in Paris.
Dusty Rainbow from the Dark is the most ambitious effort to date from Jean-Christophe in wrapping his trademark music within an interwoven tale about a young boy with his records “strewn about.” One day, his mother explained the source of a rainbow as a path that “leads to your imagination. If you open your mind, you’ll find your dusty rainbow from the dark.” And thus, at the Trianon on Thanksgiving, Tailor treated everyone to his new live experience, much unlike I previously saw at Schubas in Chicago in 2009 or the most recent American trip a couple short months ago that hit the east and west coasts.
Caen producer Fakear opened the evening with music that you’d more hear from the ranks of Ghostly International than Ed Banger or Sound Pellegrino here in France. With a fresh, organic production that sometimes recalled Shigeto’s “So So Lovely” or perhaps Paper Tiger’s “2nd Day Back,” the kid was simply beyond happy behind the machines, bobbing and bouncing to every twist of the nob. Honestly I’ve rarely seen a single producer on stage be that active, that energetic with every minute movement. He’s got a natural talent that will hopefully propel him new fans, new collaborations and new opportunities to catch him live. For a taste, here’s “Morning in Japan” which emerged towards the end of the set.
The new live experience of Dusty Rainbow in the Dark wraps around your senses. Not only is he constantly accompanied by a cellist, violinist (sometimes bassist), guitarist and flutist, he holds an arsenal of emcees along with sax and trombone players. Visually, it’s enrapturing with a large, white screen behind that can fold and shrink as needed, as well as space in front of his tables to help narrate his tale.
Despite the amount of guest appearances through his discography, Wax Tailor kept it in the family for the Paris dates with only Charlotte Savary, Mattic and A.S.M. Charlotte quickly emerged from backstage, bathed in blue light accompanying her with “Dusty Rainbow.” Although she isn’t as featured on this recording as past ones, she nevertheless elegantly took over contributing songstress’ parts as with “Down in Flames,” the uptempo single “Heart Stop,” or even “This Train” and its soulful rhythms, with Mattic taking on Voice’s raps. Mattic equally stepped up, having honed songs and his stage presence. Mattic took the reigns on “Walk The Line,” breaking up the set that predominately followed the Dusty Rainbow storyline; the 2006 song reworked and retooled much as with the previous Tailor discography. A.S.M., an emcee duo, also did double duty taking on “B-Boy on Wax” along with “c’est pas une blague/No joke” Marco and Polo on sax and trombone.
The visuals continued throughout, linked to each song with distinct yet cohesive visual styles. Though Thursday’s concert lasted a good two hours, it cruised by thanks to the lush variety of visuals. Surrounding “How I Feel” and its slow tempo, projected was a young woman wrapped in white, slow turning seemingly at peace. Yet it went for a surprising turn as her contours were all that were visible to the naked eye. The page turned and soon the same woman was in make-up, listlessly roaming Parisian streets and the woods. The visuals distract, much more so than Justice, having drawn the Parisian public in even more than a stripped down set. It serves things well, pushing the story along without the need to coax the audience. It eventually came to a conclusion with “From the Dark,” letting the previously animated boy become Pinocchio into a live actor in the video, pursued and haunted by masked men in the conclusion of the set.
Wax Tailor, in France, put on one of the most well-rounded performances you can get. The thought and care into every aspect is rather astounding, and rarely achieved elsewhere nevertheless in such a space. You’d expect this to take place more so in drive-thru movie theaters in America, if ever done, as a sort of hip-hop hommage to Hitchcock given the twists and turns you’re taken for.
Visit the album, close your eyes and listen to Dusty Rainbow from the Dark. And if you can, try to catch Tailor live-be it in Chicago, Toronto or Paris. You won’t be disappointed.