Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rodolphe Burger – No Sport @ The Alhambra

Rodolphe Burger (pronounced Burjer with the silent “r” at the end) is one of France’s best and most innovative guitarists and musicians! Why this man remains unknown to most of the general public here is a puzzlement. He has a long and successful gigging and recording history both as solo artist and with his band former band Kat Onoma (deceased in 2004). He is also one of the few modern French artists who have been able to export his music abroad. After seeing him in concert recently with his band, I was again struck by the power of his live performance and the mastery he displays of his material. It’s not easy in this country to find such a combination of simplicity, technique, sonic skill and professionalism that this native Alsatian evinces. I’ve been lucky enough to see him numerous times over the years and he just keeps reaching for new and better sound all the time. Both Julien Perraudeau on electric bass and piano and Alberto Malo on drums make free but tasteful use of modern technologies in presenting a tight, musically complex and ultimately entertaining show.
A slow burner, Rodolphe Burger sat center stage for the first 45 minutes and, flanked on either side by Julien and Alberto touched his sampler and began with the first song Advance from his latest CD No Sport. He is a fascinating guitarist to watch with his crab-claw, fingerpicking style. He very lightly caresses the strings and produces such an amazing avalanche of sound that I was trying to figure out where all the notes were coming from. Make no mistake though and it’s not a trick: this guy is for real and his many years of gigging make it quite clear that his is a very real and deep talent. Burger is not the typical lyricist that one usually associates with guitar players either. In fact I would say he is more of a guitarist and “soundscapist” then singer-songwriter. That’s not to say he is not “lyrical” though. His lyrics (or at least those that I can understand anyway- he sings in both French and English and often combines the 2 in 1 song!) are implicit rather then explicit. He uses words like riffs, dropping them here and there to help shape and color the overall sound. He reminds us (and especially in his newest CD) a bit like Serge Gainsbourg at his best. A deep, resonant and powerful voice of a man at the center of his life. Musically the style is rock and roll that swirls and meanders in dark moods- you might say a sound collage. Experimental yet focused and quite centered.
The CD No Sport (
EMI) is a bit more “restrained” then the live show shall I say? I think these days of recording in small studios with digital information it is not all that uncommon to hear this emotional “distance” in a record. The live show I saw the other night had a real feel of looseness and fun about it. Of course making records and performing live are 2 completely different worlds and I don’t want to disparage this record. It’s a very good record- tasteful, interesting and fun to listen to. Some other CD’s of M. Berger’s that I like a lot are Cheval-Mouvement (1993, which was the first French record I bought during my first visit to France) and also Meteor Show (1998) which is a much more esoteric album featuring Berger in collaboration with the great Irish/French sound sorcerer Dr. L.
For those of you that are not familiar with Rodolphe Berger, please do yourself a favor and check his music out! You will find him to be a nice addition to your record collection and of course, please see him live and in concert. Truly great French rock and roll!!
PS - Two words about this newest Parisian venue: it’s cool! I think there were about 600+ people here on this night and there was room for more to fit comfortably inside. A balcony (with seats) for the old folks or faint of heart and a nicely sloping main floor gave most all of us a clear view of the stage. Very good sound system (and operator on this night!) as well. The only downside was the jammed-packed, tiny upstairs coat-check room where they sold overpriced, plastic cups of watery beer. I’d suggest bringing in your own in but don’t quote me on that. Otherwise Alhambra is a nice addition in a city much in need of more quality medium-sized music venues.


Rodolphe Burger - No Sport

Kat Onoma (Rodolphe Burger) - Sam Song .mp3 Cupid (1987)
Kat Onoma (Rodolphe Burger) - La Chambre .mp3 Far From The Picture (1995)

Photo: Katy for Leaky SparrowRodolphe Burger – Alhambra, Paris – June 12, 2008

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