Concerts Concerts Yann Tiersen Forced Me to Feel

Yann Tiersen Forced Me to Feel

Yann Tiersen at The Phoenix
Yann Tiersen
Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, ON
May 2, 2012

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Julie Lavelle

The storied French artist brought something sublime to the Phoenix stage.

 

For a dozen different reasons, this review has been a long time coming, but that isn't to say it hasn't been on my mind. In fact, the pressure has popped into my head at least once a day for the past two weeks - not the pressure of the obligation to write it, but the pressure to describe a show that brought something so indefinable to the table.

Maybe the trouble comes partly from the fact that Yann Tiersen's show felt largely without words. Sure, there are vocals kicking around in many of his tunes, but when you hear the man's music played by his live band, the meaning of those words gets caught up in the whirlwind of accompanying instrumentals. In turn, those vocals end up adding a new layer to a complex sound shared in most of his pieces, where every instrument plays an integral part in the construct, and never seem to spring up just as filler. And, when lyrics take a backseat to a sound, there are all sorts of emotions being stirred up into the mess of sticky feelings that are hard to explain when you put pen to paper for publication.

So let's speak about some details of the show for a moment, just to get that out of the way. Tiersen's latest album Skyline, (dropped in late 2011) is the newest in a long line of seven full length recordings, and was understandably a feature of the set during his stop in the city. But, to the joy of the houseful of grateful fans, he didn't skimp on the work from his other efforts, like the crowd favourite “Fuck Me” that unsurprisingly had plenty of people singing along for some key lyrics. Accented by a backdrop flashing some varying, simple visuals, most of the night's pieces were short and stormy, presenting a sort of audio illusion where you get the impression that the tracks are ten times as long as they really are (not out of boredom, but in a sort of “Standing in the hurricane's eye” situation where the world spins more slowly). And, whether the tracks being performed were the artist's more ambient and accessible work or his more chaotic and fiddle-heavy pieces (which were largely divided between the first and second half of his the set-list), Tiersen and his band never failed in the kind of focus and wild skills that made the night a moving and indefinable experience.

After decades of honing his sound, Tiersen's made creating these kind of experiences look awfully easy, and that's why the creators of so many films have called on him for his help – to capture an essence that can't be tied down with dialogue. That skill translates just as well outside of the studio, where the biggest feature of Tiersen's performances isn't just in hearing songs you love played live, it's in finding out where the sounds can bring you while your feet are planted firmly in front of his stage.

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