"Leur rencontre restera à
n'en pas douter parmi les plus beaux moments scéniques de l'année
2004" www.foutraque.com ("This meeting will stay as one of the
most beautiful shows of the year 2004")
When I first heard Jeffrey Lewis, the young rising star of New York Anti-Folk, and when I first saw him live in June 2003, I thought he was just brilliant. I also thought: Hold on, Kevin Coyne has been doing Anti Folk for years and he didn't even know it...
I asked Jeff if he knew Kevin's music; he didn't. So I gave him a copy of 'Marjory Razorblade'. His answer was:
"That album is absolutley fantastic, I really must thank you for introducing me to it! I read up a little bit on Kevin Coyne and it just makes me more and more fascinated by him and by those recordings. And of course everybody I play the album to loves it too. One of the best gifts I've gotten! Thanks again!! Jeff"
Cool. Then I got to meet Jeff at his next show in Paris, at La Guinguette Pirate (simply one of the best shows I ever saw...) and I told him he should meet Kevin and maybe do a show with him. I thought they definitely had something in common. He said he'd be honoured.
So... I sent a copy of Jeff's two cds to Kevin who replied: "I like Jeffrey Lewis (sharp lyrics with a dark sense of humor- excellent) and I'm open to anything you might arrange.". Which was quite cool.
Anyway, it took some time to get it all together but it finally happened, the place was packed and the shows were... well, let me tell you about the shows!
Kevin Coyne, who turned 60 this year, had not played in Paris since 1995. After his moving to Germany in the late 80s and due to a Germany only record distribution, he lost most of his audience. For most of his French fans, the question was : « Ain't he dead? »
Kev, Jeff... and Syd
No, he ain't dead... But... It was a bit worrying to see him get out of his car on his arrival in Paris. 60 years old, white hair, a big belly and a lung disease which required him to carry an oxygen bottle, just in case. Was it such a good idea after all to bring him all the way from Nürnberg?
"This is the first time I've gone on such a long journey to a show since I've had this disease. So this is a bit of a test, Pascal". Thanks, Kevin. Puts a bit of a pressure on me though...
Seven hours' drive is a long time: Kevin is in a bad mood. The next hours will go non-stop from bad temper to charming conversation, all intertwined with endless anecdotes and stories. This Kevin Coyne fan was quite pleased...
Dinner-time : I introduce Kevin to a nervous Jeffrey. But they soon hit it off when they realise they're both fans of Syd Barret: Kevin had even performed a great "Opera for Syd" with a German jazz-rock band.
It was time for our double interview, then Jeff went on stage. Great show : Jeff has this great voice and writes great songs. It seems he has outgrown the Anti-Folk thing and the new songs feature now a full band and sound more like some sort of Psychedlic-Folk-Punk. The audience who discovered Jeff - even the old Coyne fans - all fell for him. Jeff and his band act as they were inventing music again at every show. They're full of energy and... candour. They're are literally unbelievable. They played a mini-rock opera, the beautiful "Sea Song" and "Shoot the Head Kill the Ghoul", Jeff did one of his "low budget videos" (Jeff shows the public one of his comics and sings along) and, last but not least, Kimya Dawson (of Moldy Peaches fame) joined them for a hilarious "Ishalicious".
Then, Kevin's musicians came on stage: Andreas Blüml plays acoustic and electric guitar, Harry Hirschmann plays acoustic bass. In comes Kevin. People may smile at the sight of him but they stop smiling the moment he starts singing. The voice is still there, illness or not! Powerful!
Kevin is a showman, he knows he has to strike hard and fast to follow Jeff's great set. His first song is "Having a Party", a brutal attack on Richard Branson, Virgin Records and every show business shark he had to face. The song mirrors Lewis' "Don't Let The Record Label Take You Out To Lunch". Despite the 30 year gap, Coyne and Lewis find a common ground : how to be a music artist without losing your integrity ?
We then had the old "Sunday Morning Sunrise" which Coyne used to play with Andy Summers before he joined The Police. Blüml is no Summers but he plays a very nice acoustic guitar. Hirschmann is a wonderful and fluid bass player.
Coyne went on, going from some old songs, such as the famous "House on the Hill", dating from the years he worked as a psychiatric nurse, to some new songs, "Happy Little Fat Man" ("dedicated to me") or "Take Me Back In Our Arms" dedicated to his wife: "Here is a great big kiss for you, darling. Can you hear it?" "No" "Well, I'll try again, then. Can you hear it now?" "Yes!" "Great".
That was one of the highlights of the show : Coyne's uique ability at improvising lyrics. Kev and Jeff talked a lot before the show about improvising ; maybe Kevin wanted now to prove his point... He would tell stories, create people. Whether in between songs or during the songs, he made the audience laugh, shiver or cry.
And that was only the beginning...
I may be dying but I'm alright
After a rocking "Wobble", things go wrong: Kevin has trouble breathing, he coughes and finally straps on his oxygen pipes. Later, he told me it was the first time he had used them on stage. To see him on stage with the air-pipes is painful. Was it a good idea to put on that show? Maybe he should just quit? What will the audience who never heard him before think?
But Coyne is a pro. He knows how to put on a show. He just went on as usual. Actually, no: he used the bloody pipes. Showed them, played with them, danced around. In a minute, everybody was laughing again! And he continues with "Weirdo", the frightening (autobiographical?) story of an outcast... The emotion is there. The audience loves it.
End of the show with "The Pony Tail Song", Coyne's homage to his masters: Little Richard and Fats Domino. Coyne gets two encores.
...And forgets he's supposed to play the last encore with Lewis! It was in the papers: "They will play together at the end of the show: expect surprises!"...
Jeff is pushed on stage and taps on Kevin's shoulder... He's given a guitar and a mike and Coyne's band start off a new song. Jeff tries to follow the chords. This is not working. This is embarrassing.
Then, again, everything changes: Kevin is improvising a story again ; Jeff takes a big breath and, in between two of Coyne's phrases, starts improvising too ! "It's good to be here tonight in Paris with Kevin Coyne...". All of a sudden, this terrible encore is turning into the best encore ever ! Kev likes a challenge ! They both go on replying to each other in the weirdest acoustic rap.
Jeff's musicians want to share the thing and go up on stage too ! The song goes on and on, always stronger and exhilirating. Kevin, always the competitive kind, starts dancing with his air-pipes, singing " I may be dying but I'm alright!". The nerve ! Typical Kevin Coyne ! You want to laugh and you want to cry. Jeff stays cool : "You'll be alright! I'm sure in 10 years, we'll be back here, both of us!". And it goes on and on. Everyone is flabbergasted...
They leave but have to come back again. This time for one of Jeff's "low budget video" à la Kevin Coyne: Jeff shows the audience and Kevin a big drawing book he has drawn and Kevin sings along, inventing a story for the drawings. Hilarious.
Then Jeff throws away the book and starts dancing around. That's the best image of that show to me : that young guy dancing next to the old bloke with the air-pipes...
(That article appeared in www.modern-dance.co.uk and, in French, in www.froggydelight.com (page 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Froggy's Delight helped a lot organising the show. They took all the photos on that page too.)
Read an other review in French
Read an other review in French here: www.foutraque.com
was bootlegged: Jeffrey
Lewis And Kevin Coyne, Live In Paris, Le Nouveau Casino, Feb 9
The show was bootlegged: Jeffrey Lewis And Kevin Coyne, Live In Paris, Le Nouveau Casino, Feb 9
More photos here
some articles in the French press. They are on the Press
We had some articles in the French press. They are on the Press page.
French press release:
Voici le communiqué de presse du concert :
"Concert-événement pour cette rencontre de Kevin Coyne, légende du folk-rock-blues anglais, 60 ans, 40 albums et 30 ans de carrière derrière lui, et de Jeffrey Lewis (Les Inrocks le nomment "le maître incontesté de l'Anti Folk"), 28 ans, l'iconoclaste candide qui refuse d'entrer dans le moule du showbiz.
Tous deux adeptes du texte décalé teinté
d'autodérision, ils font et défont un folk-blues autobiographique,
tourmenté et sans concession. Préférant l'émotion
à la sophistication, ils ont tous deux choisi la low-fi- Coyne sans
le savoir; de même son talent de chanteur-improvisateur, en studio comme
sur scène, pourrait bien faire de lui un ancêtre de l'Anti Folk.
Pour la petite histoire, Coyne est également à ses moments perdus peintre et Lewis, dessinateur.
Les deux artistes, qui ne se sont "découverts" que récemment, s'apprécient et se comprennent en connaisseurs."