“A voice so deep and gloriously textured you could happily drown in it.”
In French (I’m told) there’s a term “à l’ouest” which, if not taken literally, means a dreamer, or someone “from another planet”. It seems only fitting then that Helenē Clark not only made the long journey west from France to Britain, but is also utterly out of this world.
Taking inspiration from her time out on the streets, Clark’s set was an audial rollercoaster, ranging from almost stingingly raw despair to jubilation and joy. Deeply varied to say the least, but it did so without ever feeling disjointed – owing in large part to Clark’s evocative and smoky singing. She has a voice so deep and gloriously textured you could happily drown in it. Up against a gauntlet of styles ranging from junk guitar to tango, Clark’s range and tone were utterly without fault.
But the mightiest mountains do not stand alone. And whilst the main event was undeniably Clark, full credit must be given to her backing instrumentalists, who all were utterly on point with their performances and energy. Andy Shuttleworth and Dick Playfair especially impressed, the former showing off a beautiful and often mesmerising skill in fingerpicking, and the latter scoring points for utterly blowing me away with the strength and energy of his punchy jazz trumpeteering.
Of course, no show is without shortcomings. Clark’s vocal tone sometimes betrayed her enunciation, meaning that her lyrical work sometimes felt wasted as certain verses were lost to a rumbling growl. And, whilst her stories between songs added substance, they sometimes bordered on good natured but stunted rambling.
But any and all faults were immediately forgiven by the closing number, referred to cheekily by Clarke as their “Calypso Carnival”. It typified what made Bonsoir Monsieur Nightfall so engrossing: never before have I seen a group of musicians so obviously having a blast with their craft, and doing so with such sustain and finesse. Sorrowful, sultry and absurdly fun all in one, ‘Bonsoir Monsieur Nightfall’ never missed a beat.
If you can sit through this show without at least once cracking a smile, I’d recommend getting your pulse checked. This is not one to be missed.
Reviewer: Jacob Close
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