It came no surprise for those who’d had the sense of showing up at their Mécanique Ondulatoire gig last March. But the recent release of their Live in Brussels has put the rest of us in the know: ALL THEM WITCHES are a terrific live act. Uniquely disposed for feverish jams, they record their albums in live conditions, with precious few overdubs. It definitely showed last Monday evening at la Maroquinerie in Paris. (PHOTOS : Sylvain Golvet // TEXTE : Sylvain & Katzenjammer)
Of course, when you come from Nashville, the beating heart of country and a rock hotspot as well (Jack White is a regular over there), playing music is as natural as breathing. Growing into such a rich musical culture, you don’t have to go far out of your way to mix folk, blues, country and good old rock’n’roll. It does not, however, make pulling a Parisian audience into the Tennessee vibe any less of a challenge. Tonight is a real test on their path to increasingly likely success.
In comparison, tonight’s opening act THE GREAT MACHINE don’t seem like they have much to prove to anyone. Look-wise, it’s an odd scramble between a street punk on guitar and a Weird Al Yankovic lookalike on bass. Music-wise, it’s quite eerie as well. As I walk in, I see the two pals trading riffs stop and start-style, within spitting distance of the audience. How refreshing! The rest is equally chaotic, a mix of McLusky-esque punk asskickers and a few high/low, Pixies-on-steroids tracks. Quite hard to see where they’re going for in terms of style, as it is on their albums, but their scenic fury makes for a pretty good time.
Under warm rounds of applause, ALL THEM WITCHES gently dive into a concert that will be in their image: charismatic and cool. The setlist draws mostly on their last two albums, brilliantly executed, embellished with a few extra melodic arrangements on guitar and keyboard. And, above all, with a warm and powerful sound that wraps the Maroquinerie into a Tennessee dive bar atmosphere.
ATW’s unique style unrolls bit by bit, with tracks pretty close in terms of tone and rhythms, such as a superb « Open Passageways » / « Talisman » combo that sets the mood. Songs are built around ambiance and texture rather than classical structures, yet the blues provides a solid bedrock – a common sonic reference that everyone can rally around.
Relentless harmonic efforts from the band, which are most welcome in a stoner scene that sometimes mistakes noise for musicality, end up casting a powerful spell upon the audience. All Them Witches may well be to stoner rock, what Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue was to jazz: a return to melody. Thanks to omnipresent yet always spot-on keyboards, the band can sound tender and melancholic, then ominous and agressive. They don’t hesitate to delve into folk, either, putting layers of electricity upon an acoustic guitar basis. We dare anyone not to get chills on « Talisman »…
Tonight’s good surprise is the presence of a new song, a pathfinder for their upcoming March 2017 new release. While it may not announce a radical change of musical direction, it does bring a most exciting news: there’s more where that good stuff came from. And we’ll welcome it with open arms!
Last modified: 7 March 2017