Review by Matthew Hocter
On a trip to Europe back in 2009, my longing to return to Paris was finally coming to fruition. I hadn’t been there since I was a child with my late Oma and given that there was some twenty years between visits, I knew that as an adult, things would be different. With music at the forefront of every place I visit, a trip to a HMV store (remember them!?) in Paris proved to be an invaluable lesson in French music.
After listening to what seemed like an inordinate amount of various CD’s on those upright listening docks (again, remember them!?), I came across two artists that caught my ear; Sheryfa Luna, a French r&b artist and the music collective known as Paris Combo. Incredibly different in their styles, both seemed to embody everything French and set me on a path to discovering even more music from one of the most beautiful languages on earth.
With so much happening around the world back in 2020, it came as a complete shock to learn of the passing of Paris Combo’s front woman and co founder, Belle du Berry. Along with Australian David Lewis, a trumpeter and piano player who had moved to France in his 20’s,1995 saw the pair form Paris Combo, along with fellow musicians François Jeannin on drums (also backing vocals), Potzi on guitar and Manohisa Razanajato on double bass and vocals, all of whom are with the band to this day.
With a strong connection to Australia spanning over two decades, the band have again returned to Adelaide as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Paris Combo, along with special guest singers, helped open the festival with their show, an homage to du Berry’s incredible musical legacy and impact on French music, along with their recent album, 2022’s Quesaco. Quesaco would also be du Berry’s final album with the band. A bittersweet moment where celebration and contemplation collided.
Opening with “Living Room” off of their 2001 album of the same name and working their way through a canon of music that has been formed over two and a half decades, it was guest vocalists Bille, the deliciously decadent Carmen Maria Vega and Aurore Voilqué (also a sensational violinist) that allowed for du Berry’s music to take centre stage. Covering a multitude of genres that encompassed everything from French pop, cabaret, gypsy jazz and even samba, to say that there were standout moments would be a gross understatement.
Two of the nights most exquisite moments belonged to “Fibre De Verre” (Fibre glass) and “Sous La Lune.” “Fibre De Verre” saw Lewis’s Trumpeting and Voilqué’s Violin mastery combine to create something so heartbreakingly beautiful, commanding the audiences complete attention. On the stunning ballad “Sous La Lune,” Vega’s reinterpretation was nothing short of captivating. Whilst everything was sung in French and each singer, along with Lewis provided a brief history and translation to the essence of the song, Vega and “Sous La Lune” was an example of where emotion can sometimes override the need for literal translation or even understanding. The emotive power in her delivery coupled with Lewis playing the trumpet underwater was a sheer tour de force in musicality.
Paris Combo delivered a love letter that not only honored du Berry perfectly, but showed that du Berry’s music along with the band themselves, are most definitely here to stay.