Nouvelle Vague + Kill The Pain. The Old Woollen, Leeds. 21.02.2024.

A new venue for me and a completely different type of gig to those I would normally go. The Old Woollen, set in one of Yorkshire’s old mills, just off Farsley’s high street is a superb 500 capacity venue. Great sound, great atmosphere, reasonable drinks prices, friendly staff and, most importantly, inclusive and accessible for those with disabilities.

Kill The Pain, the new project of Australian musician Phoebe Killdeer and French singer Melanie Pain, both of whom have been members of tonight’s headliners deliver a superb, all too short, set of post punk songs laced deeply with infectious funky rhythms. They’re also a lot of fun. Songs such as opener ‘Zig Zag’ are shot through with hints of The Slits and Tom Tom Club whilst others are driven along by spiky guitars and space age noises (‘I Do What I Do’). The 70’s full on disco vibe of ‘Meditations’ simply asks “What the fuck is going on?”

Killdeer and Pain deliver it all whilst gyrating around the stage twisting and turning, faces sporting big smiles and expressions that state clearly just how much fun they’re having. Kill The Pain manage to sound both futuristic and nostalgic. Funk, drum and bass, electro-beats, deep bass riffs and disco guitars, off kilter keyboard noises and perfect underlying dance beats. It’s all here and more. A unique duo delivering a unique show.

Tonight was the opening night of the tour. It’d be well worth grabbing a ticket for one of the remaining dates.

What to say about headliners Nouvelle Vague? Founded in 2003 by Marc Collin and the late Oliver Libaux they’ve spent the last 20+ years covering songs by other bands. A covers band! I’ve spent decades telling people how I’m not a fan of covers bands. Why listen to covers when there’s so much great new music around etc etc? But then a band comes along that completely blows your opinion out of the water. That band is Nouvelle Vague. They make little, if any attempt, to replicate the originals. Instead, they’re a completely off-kilter, Bossa Nova, tribute to the post punk greats of the late 70’s and early 80’s. What they deliver is hypnotic, seductive, enthralling. Songs you’ll recognise (almost) immediately but done in a way that is so unique you can’t help but be hooked in.

Shrouded in almost complete darkness Nouvelle Vague open with Love Will Tear Us Apart, just as mournful and heart-wrenching as the Joy Division classic only this time the perfect setting would be a smoke filled jazz joint somewhere deep underground. Sublime versions of People Are People (Depeche Mode) and Only You (Yazoo) follow and a simply beautiful Making Plans For Nigel (XTC), the lyrics whimsical, almost spoken. Every song superb. Absolute standouts included ‘A Forest’ (The Cure), the superb drum filled pause in ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ (Depeche Mode), the dark, dark ‘She’s In Parties’, the dubbed up reggae twist to Tears For Fears ‘Shout’ and the funky reggae slant of The Clash’s ‘Guns Of Brixton’.  ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’, Dead Kennedy’s punk anthem has an amazingly funky, dance beat with distinct hints of The Feelies, a hypnotising ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ and main set closer the laid back, gentle, sultry vibes of ‘I Melt With You’ (Modern English).

Rapturous applause brings them back to play ‘Ever Fallen in Love..’, a version that would happily sit at home amongst the best calypso party anthems. As an obsessive Buzzcocks fan even I’m smitten. The night finishes with Tuxedomoon’s ‘In A Manner Of Speaking’ and I leave with a new respect for a covers band. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived but I left with just one thought, “That was really special”.

Nouvelle Vague’s new album, ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ has been released to coincide with the tour and includes their unique take on gems such as ‘You Spin Me Round’, ‘Rebel Yell’, ‘The Look Of Love’ as well as the title track.

If, like me, you’ve never been fond of cover/tribute bands I suggest at the very least you look Nouvelle Vague up. Better still find somewhere to see them on this tour and be prepared to have your opinions completely changed.


Steve White

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