The Union Chapel, London
Monday, 15th November 2021
[Disclaimer: I didn’t plan to do this review, so no notes were taken and my knowledge of who took part and what they played is entirely accidental and anecdotal. I believe this is thoroughly in the spirit of the event and anything more professional would be uncalled-for…]
Faust’s live reputation precedes them, built on the legendary early ’70s gigs which took place in total darkness and at punishing volume, with industrial machinery on stage and someone playing pinball throughout. Or knitting. So, what was I expecting from them in the 21st Century and the stately Union Chapel? Well, what I got was a highly genial, shambolically relaxed party to which the audience had (possibly accidentally) been invited. One of the participants (on backing vox and occasional percussion) spent almost the entire gig lying on the floor reading a book.
What did they play? Well the gig was advertised as ‘Faust play Faust IV‘, and that was what we got. Bear in mind that the album is your standard 40 minutes or so and the band were on stage for an hour-and-a-half without really playing anything else… so accuracy to the record was not the primary concern. If you know the album then you’ll have recognised the songs with a bit of effort, and may indeed have had one up on some of the members of the band. For example, the guitarist on my far right (who was later revealed to be none other than Anthony Moore of Slapp Happy) was clearly doing a lot of fast and frantic remembering.
Lest anyone think I am being in some way negative, I should state that the evening was an utter delight. The band’s ‘leader’ Jean-Herve Peron (bass, lead vocals) was a charming, twinkly host, and the sight of his daughter, towering over the rest of the band, singing and banging her tambourine with a huge infectious grin, was enough to lift anyone’s spirits. Oh, and The Sad Skinhead is even sillier live than it is on the record. Which is a good thing, obviously.
The concert started with the stage in almost total darkness and the recorded voice of Peter Blegvad intoning something that I really should have written down, before a string trio played a beautiful neo-classical piece (that isn’t on the record) before being augmented by lead guitarist Amaury Cambuzat with some growly low end. And then the rest of the band came on and off we went, approximating the album with gay abandon. I have to say that the addition of the strings was inspired as they added a lot of colour and propulsion to the music, even during the climactic full-on wig-out of Krautrock which closed the show in a highly satisfactory manner.
Also, a special mention should go to the excellent sax, clarinet and bassoon player, only I can’t remember her name.
There were two drummers, the great and glorious Chris Cutler and an 18 year-old French woman making a very impressive attempt to keep up with him. At the end of the gig the jolly Japanese MD (keys, arrangements and occasional random Japanese vocals) pointed out that the band contained someone of every decade from teens to 70s!
In conclusion, you’re never going to get precision from Faust. They were always as much a Dada collective as anything else. But this is a band that recognise, above all, that this is a live event. Unpredictable, never to be repeated. So why not invite a few friends along and have some fun?
SETLIST (possibly, and in some kind of order)
02. The Sad Skinhead
04. Just a Second
05. Giggy Smile / Picnic on a Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableau
06. Läuft…Heißt Das Es Läuft Oder Es Kommt Bald…Läuft
08. It’s a Bit of a Pain
Jean-Herve Peron – Bass, Lead Vocals
Amaury Cambuzat – Guitar
Anthony Moore – Guitar
Chris Cutler – Drums
Chloe Herrington – Saxophone, Bassoon
and numerous others…
Faust – Website
[Photos by Lee Mellows]