FRANCK CARDUCCI BAND – Ivory Blacks Glasgow (Concert Review)

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 For the first time, French prog rocker and all-round showman Franck Carducci brought his band to Scotland. It was a strange situation, as the venue at the moment has no liquor license so it was a dry show, and not only for the artist. A gig, a Saturday night, NO beer could frighten the very hearts of a Scottish crowd but the brave souls who decided to go without (I think a lot was supped beforehand in the bars nearby in preparation) were treated to a highly entertaining rock and roll prog show. Musically exceptional but with laughs galore as the band create merriment on and off stage.

The Gig

From the moment that the band kicked off with opener “Slave To Rock ‘N’ Roll,” with Mary Renaud (singer, theremin,  tambourine, dancer and acting) being held back by a big security man to stop her fawning all over Franck (who plays a rock star during the song), you could tell what sort of night it was going to be. The song itself is a right good rocker and Mary picks fights with others in he band, as she tries to get to the lead singer. Lyrically, I love the way he kind of satirises himself with the line “add another neck to my guitar” whilst playing a double neck. Prog as such can allow humour, you know? Even at the end of the song, he joked by welcoming us to the “rock n roll detox show” in Glasgow.

Franck mentioned and thanked Steve Hackett before “Closer To Irreversible” for providing a solo for the song on the album version. For more on Steve Hackett, check out the interview he kindly gave to Decibel Geek HereMary opened the song vocally, with Franck joining in and creating some lovely harmonies together through it. It built from a slower almost psychedelic vibe into a huge ballad with organ soloing (think Uriah Heep or Deep Purple)  and guitar solos blazing till it drops back down. Beautiful track played exquisitely.  

The After Effect” was introduced as being about aliens coming to earth and trying to understand human life. It is an atmospheric piece, which once again Mary took the vocal lead on. For some reason, the melody she sang made me think of the quieter section from a UK soap opera theme tune (Eastenders) which is obviously a fluke, as I am sure they would neve have heard it!  The track catches the mood of the story and changes through various guises yet still has a commercial edge. There are a couple of moments halfway through which again add to the song, with some vocal harmonies heading into Gentle Giant or indeed Spock’s Beard territory before the theremin comes out and Mary plays it with just about every part of the body including her cleavage. Without doubt, I have never seen it played quite like that. It then goes a bit Floyd,before twisting around back to the same opening melody but this time on keyboard by Olivier Castan.

The Guitarists Steve And Christophe

From space to ancient Greece,” said Franck as he introduced the next track. “Achilles” is at times more Genesis in style although still sounds like them. It is also one of several songs that Olivier lightens up with lovely piano/keys. There is an elegance to the sound of keys in my view that adds to the songs.  This is another song that goes through various styles and moods including a section where Christophe uses the theremin (it was funny when the box holding it fell off the stand, it didn’t faze him at all as he smiled at the guys and refitted it, live music folks) but in a more evil looking way (his facial contortions were brilliant) in red lighting and smoke.  There is entertainment all the time whilst they play some intricate and well constructed music.

There is a more mellow moment as Franck leaves the stage and the band and Mary perform together a haunting ballad called “Angel” where she wears a white shawl and swirls around during the musical part. The large angel wings didn’t make an appearance due to the size of the stage which was a shame as all lit up it is quite the sight. The song was delivered with great beauty.

All the band, one guitar

Medley Madness

At this point, Franck explains that as they are playing some new songs there is less time for old ones. However they had invented a thing called “a medley” to help! He pointed out that folks keep asking about when the new album would be out but he doesn’t know for sure so no point in asking. Of course someone in the crowd had to immediately shout “when’s the new album out” to laughs all round.

He explained that the opening piece called “The Quind” was written when he was 15. He said he was encouraged to give writing in English a go after hearing The Beatles I Am The Walrus” when he realised songs don’t have to make any sense. The four track medley included two songs each from the two studio albums and blended together vey well. There was a short drum solo, some guitar soloing as Christophe and Steve battled things out doing solos/riffs from Deep Purple/Guns And Roses and Iron Maiden amongst others all the while laughing and joking with each other, some belly dancing from Mary along with a clap along that hinted at “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel. It was rather enjoyable to say the least.

From there he got all the band together in a row to the front of stage and performed a new song which was acoustic, well some of it had him playing an acoustic guitar with them all singing harmonies without a microphone in sight.  They went back to their instruments and played another new one called “Deja-vu Airport” which is I think the heaviest song they have written.

Careful with that didgeridoo! Mary as Alice

Poor Alice

As to be expected they finished the set with “Alice’s Eerie Dream” where they tell the “true story” of Alice In Wonderland! Of course the song is acted out as “poor little Alice” is sold into prostitution and has to fight a didgeridoo! The manner in which Mary pushes down the didgeridoo with a smile on her face was wicked. Also hilarious! The disco type rock dance section is also quite something. Again musically well played but total fun to watch.

Coming back to the stage they did a bit of “Artificial Paradises” into Pink Floyd’s Eclipse” as the encore.

In Conclusion

The Franck Carducci Band wear their hearts on their sleeves. Yes, they aren’t scared to show off their influences, but they use those to create something of their own. They are a group who enjoy themselves onstage and that is very infectious to the people watching. Folks sang, danced, clapped and heckled. They may not have had the biggest crowd on the night due to there being other possibly better known prog based outfits also playing Glasgow that night along with a venue that couldn’t sell beer, but those there will no doubt be telling friends what they missed. They played like they were playing an arena giving it everything and treating the audience with great respect. To anyone who missed this UK tour please make sure you don’t miss the next one!

Setlist… 1. Slave To Rock ‘n’ Roll/ 2. Closer To Irreversible/ 3. The After Effect/ 4. Achilles/ 5. The Angel/ 6. Medley The Quind/Journey Through The Mind/A Brief Tale Of Time/The Last Oddity/ 7. On The Road To Nowhere/ 8. Deja-Vu Airport/ 9. Alice’s Eerie Dream/ / Encore – 10. Artificial Paradises/Eclipse

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