Caravan Palace Shake Up the O2 Academy 24/01/2020

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To describe a Caravan Palace gig is like attempting to capture the intangible magic present at their shows. The buzz of excitable energy that spreads through the packed hall, and the sheer pure joy of every person in the crowd knowing that the fate of their night is safe in the hands of the Parisian electro-swing masters. To much anticipation, the band burst onstage to the sound of fan favourite track ‘Jolie Coquine’, a jazzier part of their repertoire with fantastic string instruments that instantly got the mass moving. 

This performance followed on from the release of their latest album Chronologic, giving us more lyrically advanced tracks like the mid-tempo anthem ‘Plume’ which they spun through, crooning the verses. However, they weren’t too shy with performing their classic back catalogue of old favourite tracks such as ‘Wonderland’, with a steady drum beat and synth-heavy bassline to rival any Leeds nightclub. Indeed, their performance seemed to represent all the best parts of a night out dancing on the town meeting the niche market of electro-swing. New track ‘About You’, a collaboration with Charles X, fit the bill for this with a bouncing bassline and synth perfectly balanced with the jazzy instrumental breakdowns. ‘I don’t give a damn about you!’ the band exuberantly chimed in on this track, seeming to express their couldn’t-care-less childish charm.

There was a healthy dose of brass instrumentals to curb the appetite for pure swing, with at times the trombone and saxophone were almost duelling for soundspace, the players entertainingly playing up to this by circling each other spiritedly. It has to be said that front woman Zoé Colotis’ incredible stamina is impressive, pushing the boundaries of what can be done onstage within an hour and a half slot. She and her dancing partner’s energy flooded the stage, using all the space not taken up by instruments to cavort, twist and turn in a captivating way. The click-along jazzy track ‘Rock It For Me’ saw the pair doing an effortless tap routine, capering in synchronicity whilst still managing to breathlessly sing the hook.

” at times the trombone and saxophone were almost duelling for soundspace “

It wouldn’t be a Caravan Palace gig without the traditional performance of their cover of ‘Black Betty’, a crowdraiser that us English gig-goers can’t resist- the classic catchy call and response roused even the odd reluctant attendee to join in. Even this more swing-based track wasn’t excluded from the electronic treatment, ending in a digital breakdown accompanied by every band member simply having a good time, dancing enthusiastically like they had forgotten they were onstage.

But it wasn’t all frantic energy and bright lights- like true musicians, Caravan Palace knew exactly when their audience would need a more quiet moment and break from the dancing. ‘Are you tired?’ cried Colotis, signalling her band members to take a breath. Tracks like ‘Aftermath’ were interspersed throughout the set, dreamy numbers that perfectly express the band’s whimsical manner. One of their calmer acoustic tracks, ‘Moonshine’, allowed other band members to take front stage, bathed in golden light as they cheekily winked that they wanted to bring us some sun- (or moon) shine with their cheery guitar music. After stomping through a few final crowd-pleasing numbers, with the crowd finally tired out- the band dispersed, leaving only the flicker of the electronic lights onstage.

Fern McErlane

[Header Image: LA Weekly]