Nouvelle Vague @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 10/1/2020

As the full moon shone over the Dunstan Playhouse the haunting melancholy of Fade to Grey signalled the return of Nouvelle Vague, the Parisian-punk-pop cover band that has dazzled audiences around the work for over a decade. Their unique, evocative interpretation of the 1981 electropop song by Visage set the scene for what was to come on their 15th-anniversary tour.

With minimal banter from singers Phoebe Killdeer and Melanie Pain, the audience was taken on a 90-minute journey through new wave, post-punk and pop hits of yesteryear. Songs including Blue Monday (New Order), I Wanna Be Sedated (The Ramones), Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) (Buzzcocks) and Blank Generation (Richard Hell & the Voidoids) were enjoyable to watch re-imagined in a sultry French noir fashion.

The relatively modest performance was then turned on its head with some old fashioned audience participation. Killdeer and Pain encouraged everyone to get up, dance and sing along to Dead Kennedy’s Too Drunk to Fuck which they did loudly and proudly. The elevated atmosphere transitioned a cabaret-style performance into a gig with the audience freely whooping, cheering and dancing in their seats at will.

Songs such as Sweet and Tender Hooligan (The Smiths) and Human Fly (The Cramps), which Killdeer stamped her distinctive brand of theatricality on, followed. A shoe-less Pain then skulked into the audience for Dance with Me (The Lords of the New Church). Despite the house lights coming up and her not so subtle hand gestures at the lighting technician to put a spotlight on, one was not afforded to her. This, unfortunately, was a recurring theme and marred an otherwise impeccably choreographed performance.

Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes) again brought the crowd collectively to their feet and clapping to the iconic beat before they settled back down for thoughtful renditions of Enola Gay (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads), Friday Night, Saturday Morning (The Specials) and The Guns of Brixton (The Clash).

The final two songs of the main set, Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bauhaus) and Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division), were a definite highlight. Nouvelle Vague’s ability to out-goth classic goth songs is exemplary and made this former goth’s black heart swell with love. The rest of the audience appeared to agree and offered a standing ovation for the duration of the short break.

Continuing on the dark and brooding gothic path was a stellar interpretation of Echo and the Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon. Although I would have been perfectly content if the show ended on this note, Just Can’t Get Enough (Depeche Mode) and In a Manner of Speaking (Tuxedomoon) eventually wrapped up what can only be described as a wonderful genre-bending musical journey. The second standing ovation highlighted the Adelaide audience’s appreciation of Nouvelle Vague’s distinctive style of music, a style that validates they are more than just a cover band.

Live Review By Anita Kertes

Photo Credit: Rod Maurice

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