Ahmed Adnan Saygun Arts Centre is on the final day of its ‘1 Festival Izmir’ event, organized for the third time this year. The festival, whose tickets are sold out, is having its closing evening with a concert by the French funk, jazz and soul band Electro Deluxe.
I have been waiting for this concert with anticipation just like WootenChambersFranceschini; this is just my style of music. The band has been to Turkey many times but I hadn’t listened to them live before. I know I will somehow like but but my excitement mainly stems from the fact that a musician friend, whom I was convinced that didn’t enjoy music because I hadn’t seen them excited by a live performance for quite a while, had said “Their live performance is great!” What could prompt him to say that?
I look for the answer to this during the first two pieces. Their performance is commanding, there is solid music on the stage. All the musicians are playing marvellously: Arnaud Renaville plays with the strength of 10 drummers, bass guitarist Jeremie Coke gives the music its groove, keyboard player Gael Cadoux with his Rhodes and Nord Electro 3, tenor saxophone player Thomas Faure, trumpet player Vincent Payen and trombonist Bertrand Luzignant who contribute with their showmanship as well as their music. James Copley is an amazing frontman. He has a devilish charm, a ‘joker face’, he is confident, funny, uses his body well, has the audience in the palm of his hand, incredibly energetic; he never leaves the listeners with nothing to do and he is a great singer. I get my answer soon enough: There are tons of bands who makes this music, what makes Electro Deluxe different is that they bring this music to life and make it live. Making good music is only a part of the job, that is already expected, but we are presented with not only a concert but a show. Music is a solid part of it but so are the sounds, dances and communication with the audience. He calls out to the audience in the midst of All Alone: “In a world full of fear and hate, now we will leave all that behind here together” and the song continues: “Got to let it go, you’ve got to let it, let it go”. Everyone in the concert hall sings it together. I think this is the keyword “together”. We are a part of everything that’s going on the stage now.
They continue with a groovy piece which allows the body to sway. The soloist invites the listeners to get on their feet. There is a weak movement but everybody sits down when the people on the back stay seated. Then a young girl comes towards the stage and starts dancing, and she is followed by other young members of the audience who fill the aisles. I naturally get up as well, I initially had thought “How will we stay seated during this concert?”, it seems like we won’t. I might have brought the age average up but my soul is young. There is some serious funk going on the stage. The winds, Rhodes, wah-wah effect; they all jumped aboard on the drums and are flying. Soloist does not stop for a moment; he dances if he isn’t singing, joking with the members of the audience, becomes the third and the fourth hands on the keyboard. The mid and back sections are still seated. He doesn’t give up joking with them until everyone is on their feet. He approaches the subject from all fronts, never sounding snobbish or forceful thanks to his devilish charm. Nobody has an attitude that says “I bought this seat, I will stay seated, leave me be. Those who are in the front should sit down too, I can’t see anything.” Everybody is having fun with smiles on their faces, doesn’t matter if they are up or down.
Another hyping-up session is in order. “This song’s name is Liar. Liar is how I get rid of the negativity that is pent up inside me because we need to make space for love and excitement in our lives. All of you know a liar, somebody lied to you, could be a man or a woman, could be your boss or a politician… We have all been lied to, I cannot keep this disgrace inside, I need to get it out. Now raise a finger and should ‘Liar’ with me.” Imagine the state of the concert hall. Over and over again, together, stronger, once again. It becomes sort of a ritual. The members of the audience look purged with smiles on their faces when the piece is over.
The next piece played by the winds is called Devil, a very suitable title as it has devilish up and downs, and it makes the whole concert hall sway back and forth. The arrangements of Electro Deluxe are nothing but usual, forms and rhythms change within pieces. Good musicianship and show, and great music. What else! Just about to say that’s too much as the winds start playing solos. The floor moves under your feet. Our feet! Gael Cadoux takes over the torch from the saxophone and trombone with the wah-wah on Nord Electro 3, the breath of the bass is on his neck, then comes trading, unisons… These guys are great mate! There is a delicious musical feast on the stage. The next piece is Paramount and the soloist doesn’t sing in this one; instead he is after mischief again. Rhodes contributes to the solo, musically and visually.
The tempo slightly drops. They turn their face from funk to funk jazz. We listen to a jazz solo from the piano for the first time during Oh No, a soul-funk piece. We can get a better taste of James Copley’s ability as a singer. Soul and jazz suit him, it is evident that he is a good singer in the other pieces but he tears through, instead of just touch upon, (too arabesque?) the pieces in which the vocals are in the foreground. Then the vocal, piano and trombone come together for an acoustic version of Circle of Light, not exactly a ballad person myself but his singing makes me listen. He reminds me of Prince’s Sometimes It Snows in April, not with his vocal color but the way he sings it.
The soloist invites everyone to sit down and take a breath during the slow piece, I really needed that. It won’t be a long rest, though. The next piece is a mid-tempo one called Heaven, and the audience joins in at the end with a game of ‘repeat after me’. The tempo rises; so do music and the audience. And just like that, everyone is on their feet again. The winds are again marvellous in this piece; trombone, trumpet, saxophone take our breath away, applause, screaming, chaos.
No sign of tiredness on the stage, where do they find all this energy? Especially the soloist and the drummer. Of course, they are all energetic but the energy of those two require physical fitness. They must be taking really good care of themselves. If I hadn’t fallen asleep after the concert in my hotel room I would have joined them and ask but I missed out on the journalism opportunity due to many days’ fatigue.
The tempo keeps rising as if I hadn’t questioned their energy level. Keep My Baby, Twist Her… Now the winds play and the audience repeats. James hypes everyone up “You guys in Istanbul sing stronger. Those in Paris make more noise! Once more!”. There isn’t a still body inside. Eye For An Eye, a song to lose yourself in. He makes a confession. “We have never finished a show with people sitting down. Never. Get off your asses. Let go. This is freedom.” The few who were still sitting finally get up. The whole venue is on their feet, jumping, clapping, everyone shouts when he counts to four. This is the sound of a stadium audience. This man would make a good politician, he knows how to have command over crowds. But this is hard to do with messages like ‘Put your phone away, your life passes by while you stare at your screen, put it down and look me in the eye’.
This was the most enthusiastic and fun show I have seen in a while, in addition to having musical satisfaction. Those on the stage and we leave the venue with tired smiles on our faces. Mine is more of a grin because I am thinking that I will converse with the band in a bit, I want to listen to their comments about what I watched. Of course, I don’t know that I will fall right asleep when I go to my hotel just yet.