photos courtesy of Robert Loerzel | www.undergroundbee.com
Nouvelle Vague @ Lincoln Hall | 01.29.10
Chicago's newest live venue, Lincoln Hall, is a sight to see. With it's hardwood floors, disco ball and initimate size, it's a beautiful addition to the city's nightlife. It's almost a shame then, that the minute Helena Noguerra and Karina Zeviani—the sexy International chanteuses of Nouvelle Vague—took to the stage that the venue receded from focus, all eyes now on our charismatic frontwomen.
At first I was surprised to hear that the band's appearance this weekend was a downsize from its last visit, when the group performed at Metro, but once into the opening bars of "So Lonely" (a Sting cover), the slow burning warmth of its twangy bossa lounge seemed a better fit here, in a cozier environment. It didn't hurt that my aggressive concert-going companions had weaseled us up to within five feet of the stage. All the better to see the Brazilian-born Zeviani and her Belgian-born, actress-turn-songstress counterpart Noguerra bounce, shimmy and shuffle through more than twenty songs—two encores?!—from the band's three album catalog. It was clear that the ladies were the center of attention, with Nouvelle Vague's brain trust, Marc Collins and Olivier Libaux, book ending the band at opposite ends of the stage.
There were too many highlights to keep track of, as the group ebbed and flowed from frantic and lively to undeniably chill. At one point, the melancholy duet of "God Save the Queen" saw Zeviani sat atop a monitor at the front of the stage with accompaniment from Collins' solo guitar. The morose first encore of "Bela Legosi's Dead," had Zeviani skulking out into the audience before collapsing in a heap on the dance-floor at the songs end. These moodier moments were contrasted with healthy doses of upbeat, like the '60s dance party version of the Dead Kennedy's "Too Drunk to Fuck" and the Brazilian skank of the Specials "Friday Night, Saturday Morning." Even the more countrified reinterpretations housed on the band's latest album were welcome, it's covers of "Master and Servant" (Depeche Mode) and "Road to Nowhere" (Talking Heads) chief among them.
Adding to the abundance of quirky covers, the energy from the leading ladies manifested itself in speaker climbing, shoe kicking, robot dancing, loving embraces, kazoo playing and endless head bobbing and jumping up and down. At points the duo's energy sidetracked them from the task at hand; they clearly messed up lyrics multiple times but each was shrugged off with classic French nonchalance. They clearly commanded the undivided attention of the crowd, especially the guys in attendance who whistled and hooted, calling out "legs for days" and "I'm in love" in response to Noguerra's impossibly hot cover of "Fallen in Love." I think it was at that point that my friend Hillary turned to me and whispered that even she wanted to take one of the lead singers home with her.
- Joshua P. Ferguson