Concert Reviews

St. Germain at the Danforth Music Hall

It took French musician/producer Ludovic Navarre, aka St. Germain, 15 years to follow up his global smash album, Tourist, the album that soundtracked most chillout lounges through the naughts.  In those 15 years Navarre obviously did some global travelling with a focus on Africa and that has informed his eponymous third album released late last year.

The album has more in common with Orchestra Baobab than St. Germain’s lounge-y brethren from fifteen years ago with its African instrumentation and rhythms.  I haven’t seen much press/hype around its release but it’s just as enjoyable, if not more so than the first two platters.

I saw St. Germain at the Guvernment back in 2000 and vaguely remember leaving the gig infuriated.  I can’t definitely remember why but a friend did remind me that it was Navarre on stage appearing to play his album loudly over the loud speakers.  

I’m not sure what I was expecting but was surprised initially when 7 others joined Navarre as he hit the stage at a sold out Danforth Music Hall.  Opening with “Forget Me Not” off the new album, the band and crowd took some minutes to warm up to each other and they would really take a liking to each other over the course of the night.  The instruments, some of them I couldn’t even figure out what they were with my failing eyesight, shifted the old jazz/house vibe to a vibrant jazzy Afrobeat one.

The musical prowess of the seven musicians was displayed frequently and really revved up the crowd, most notably a smoking bongo drum solo towards the end of the night.  They looked to be having a lot of fun on-stage, with each other and really turned the evening into a communal party.  The main set saw 7 songs delivered in 90 minutes with each song turning into impressive jams.  

Depending on your exposure to the new album, the evening might have been a miss if you were expecting a dance party.  Sure there was some dancing but mostly there was straining of necks to watch these guys play.  When a beat did drop, the crowd got their shuffle on, but for the most part this was a night of hypnotic Afrobeat.  While the set list was mostly the new album, St. Germain reworked Tourist highlights “Rose Rouge”, “So Flute” and “Sure Thing” to accommodate the touring lineup.

“Rose Rouge” was largely unrecognizable aside from the “I want you to get together” vocal sample with the song turned on its head into a Congotronics-like trance that just blew the lid off the room.  “So Flute” got a less radical reworking and suffered because of it.

In the end, we got 10 songs in roughly two hours and while Navarre largely took a backseat to the proceedings, his accompanying musicians were a treat to watch and listen to.  Another win for second chances!

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.