LIVE REVIEW: Marina Celeste @ The Cluny (04.03.16) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For a time in the early 2000s, Nouvelle Vague were churning out tongue-in-cheek lounge versions of punk and new wave standards as if there was no tomorrow. Part of the attraction was undoubtedly the heavily accented vocals and the inferred naivety supplied by a rotating array of Gallic chanteuses, of whom Marina Celeste was one. And, mon dieu, if you aren’t aware that she’s French before she takes to the stage, you certainly are within about five seconds of her appearance on stage; her performance ranges from scorned woman to playful seductress and her demeanour gives a knowing wink to the 1960s stylised French cinema clips that are projected onto a screen behind her.

The act is played out between songs as she uses her mobile phone, a hat and a blow-up doll as props for a variety show that is desperately channelling turn-of-the-century Parisian cabaret but ends up feeling more like an end-of-the-pier show – a diversion of sorts but not something you’ll go home raving about to make the neighbours jealous.

The patter between songs is initially hilarious and inclusive but her malapropisms become increasingly tiresome and you’re left wondering if this is just an act or whether she really is as mad as a box of frogs. Whichever the case, they do serve to distract from the original songs she performs, which really aren’t anything special. Celeste hasn’t got a huge vocal range and as the music careers around various genres barely taking a breath, it eventually seems to settle on a malaise of Europop peppered with elements of Bjork and easy listening. A heavily vocoded rendition of Teenage Kicks is amusing at first but ends up being fairly symbolic of the gig in general – the smiles with which you greet it are quickly replaced with le grand sigh of indifference.

The biggest cheers of the night are saved, predictably, for her stripped back and downbeat versions of Guns of Brixton and Love Will Tear us Apart that are smothered in a sexually charged, laconic disregard that made them seem so thrilling when Nouvelle Vague first recorded them. It’s just a shame that the same substance wasn’t in evidence for the previous hour.

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