Paris Combo: A Celebration of the Songs of Belle du Berry

ACF-Paris-ComboFrench (well, mostly) ensemble Paris Combo have been making music with different line-ups since the 1990s. The group also visits Australia on occasion.

On this trip they bring A Celebration of the Songs of Belle du Berry, a tribute to their lead singer and writer of many songs, who passed away in 2020.

This instalment of Paris Combo is a 10-piece, with guest vocalists Carmen Maria Vega, Billie, Aurore Voilqué, and Mano Razanajato sharing the duties of lead vocalist.

The set started with the group’s native English speaker (Australian David Lewis, also responsible for Trumpet, Piano and Musical Direction) giving a little intro to the songs. This was abandoned part way through the “fun-loving mix of swinging gypsy jazz, cabaret, French pop and world rhythms”.

However, there were still bright costumes and unfamiliar arrangements, and without even thinking, I found my foot tapping along to the beat.

After about 30 minutes though, the variations seemed fairly subtle. Despite not understanding the words, the songs started to reveal a repetitive verse-chorus-verse structure. Some may recall a review saying how this band’s CDs were good dinner music, and obtain a new meaning…

Enthusiasm also seemed to wane in some parts of the house. The late surprises in the set would have helped to maintain interest if applied earlier, and using Razanajato more would have given the set greater variety.

Given the modern theatre setting, it seemed unfortunate that visuals weren’t used to bridge the language barrier. (I have no idea what walking along the Seine would be like!)

That said, the front few rows (having the most enthusiastic dancers at the finale) clearly were getting what they wanted. Surely Francophones would have gotten far more out of the songs than some of us. WOMAD might have been a better festival fit, but many in the house responded to the set with vigorous applause.

Paris Combo: A Celebration of the Songs of Belle du Berry
Dunstan Playhouse – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Friday 9 June 2023 – 8:30pm
Season: 9 – 11 June 2023

Image: Paris Combo (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte