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Faust (live at Pop Montréal)

Pop Montréal,
Ukrainian Federation, Montréal
3 October 2009

The gathering krautrock-keen fans filled both levels of the seated, community-centre vibe auditorium known as the Ukrainian Federation which has hosted the likes of Patti Smith, Joanna Newsom, Loudon Wainwright III, and A Silver Mt. Zion. For Faust’s first ever show in Canada, heralding their entrance, Jean-Hervé Peron started by squawking and squealing on a trombone from the back of the hall before hopping on stage with drummer Zappi Diermaier (a forbidding presence and the original Faust percussionist), James Johnston (synth and guitar wizard and co-founder of Gallon Drunk) and Geraldine Swayne (vocalist, guitarist and multi-talented member). Before long, on a brightly lit stage, the definitive beat was established within the psychedelic jam that would soon be interrupted by lush clouds of French/German ditties, which were then overlapped with industrial meanderings.

The mood was largely light, loose and informal and not as much dark, trippy avant-garde madness as some of the early Faust creations. Geraldine Swayne’s spoken word piece gave the impression of an alternative cabaret act, while Jean-Hervé leapt around on stage, liaising between band and audience, even play-fighting with Geraldine as they sang a duet. He was playing the imp and the troubadour with such vim, perhaps feeding off the vociferous applause and palpable adoration from the audience.

From hectic freak out to lullaby to power tool theatrics: oscillating also between English, German and French; between brass, electric and acoustic…At one point the fables of Lafontaine were being mixed with political commentary (in French) to the bemusement of the largely francophone congregation. We learned the context of a familiar Faust recording that began with someone bemoaning, “J’ai mal au dents”…ROCK OFF!” Even if, like me, you were hoping for the more raucous, noisy, danceable side of Faust, the musicianship was undeniable (and there wasn’t much space for dancing any way!). The encore, however, brought us back to the familiar rhythm on a darker stage with “It’s a rainy day (sunshine girl).”

This Faust line-up takes elements from its past and continues to pursue otherworldly sounds and experimental composition, and despite the fact that Faust has been in existence for over four decades, there’s no sense of automation, but rather something heartfelt. I imagine that, depending upon the venue and the crowd, the performance will vary.

-Nancy Zerabny-

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