Bertrand Burgalat

Bertrand Burgalat

with AS Dragon

The Metro Club, London, UK • March 23, 2002

After tonight, I’m convinced that the French have some kind of heartlink to everything that is good and right about rock and roll. This conclusion has nothing to do with the illustrious reputation of the secretive Bertrand Burgalat — producer to the stars (Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, April March do it for ya). It has nothing to do with the hype around this show, Burgalat’s first London engagement. It has everything to do with the fact that, at a little after 10 PM, everyone in the Metro Club who looked like they should be in a band stepped onstage and started picking up instruments. At that selfsame moment a crush of pseudo go-go girls plant themselves in front of the stage, almost squealing in delight as the band tears into an aristocratic rock groove. Is this cinema or what?

So perfect, but wait till you hear what happens next. This fella in a black leather jacket, looking like either a more beautiful and delicate Serge Gainsbourg or a more roughed-up version of those pretty boys from AIR (but wrong side of the tracks), louchely strolls onstage, and launches Beethoven-like into a psychedelic freak-out on this keyboard poised at the edge of the stage. Bertrand Burgalat, for your pleasure. It’s one of THOSE moments and there’s so many more to come tonight.

The backing band (but oh so much more), AS Dragon, who all look like different phases in the heroin years of Keith Richards, effortlessly pose away they as slide through dirt-caked gemstones of dark-pop, garage, psychedelic, and Spector-invoking symphonies. Burgalat will peek up from the keyboard between washes of sound and swagger over to the mic to frailly croon his way through total new-wave-chamber-pop-gems. While the ladies dance away. While the band smokes cigarettes.

Burgalat leaves the stage halfway through and the AS Dragon kick into a darker, weirder gear with the appearance of a tiny vocalist who looks like Brian Jones and all of the Jackson 5 rolled into one. Yow! Turns out it’s a girl in a three-piece suit with a righteous, soulful yelp and some of James Brown’s best dance move. They rock like “Paint It Black”; she screams and falls to her knees, incredible. Burgalat comes back, grinning, and the band launches into a positively transcendent cover of “Tears of a Clown.” God. I say goddamn. Perverse.

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