Concert Review

Tom McRae sells out La Maroquinerie, Paris

Following the release of Étrange Hiver on 30th February, Tom McRae celebrated by touring Belgium and France, with six shows in each.  His third show in France was in Paris’ La Maroquinerie on 25th March, and I made sure I was there.

It was a great gig, and the audience was clearly happy to see him again. If you’re a fan who isn’t sure whether to get tickets for his UK or German dates, do it – you won’t be disappointed.  Yet to be convinced to part with your hard-earned money?  Keep reading. 

Welcomed to the stage to huge applause, Tom went straight into his first song.  On acoustic guitar and playing to a now silent room, he filled the space with Lately’s All I Know.  His voice was as good as ever, the song one that urges you to just close your eyes and listen.

At the end of this song, whilst the audience cheered and applauded, Tom went into his next song – For The Restless – which encouraged the audience to audibly join in.  The joy at being on stage in front of a sellout crowd was obvious both on Tom’s face and in his voice.  From that moment, it was clear this was going to be a great gig.

Photo Credit: Claire Stones

The rather “subdued” response to the next song did not impress Tom, and he called out the crowd – at which point they may have gone a little overboard. But if you needed to know how many fans were in attendance, this made it clear.  More singing could be heard, and even a newcomer to Tom’s music would have found it hard not to join in.  That song was, of course, End Of The World News (Dose Me Up).  As is standard, the audience was split down the middle to allow for the two parts to be sung by the crowd, and the sound was beautiful.

Moving to the piano for the next song, the audience didn’t miss a beat – still word-perfect for 2nd Law.  It was also the first song I could shoot (the photography rules for a Tom McRae gig being a little different to the standard first three songs only), so I was singing along whilst trying to get the right angle to make the most of the lighting.  Staying at the piano,  Sao Paulo Rain followed, and the silence from the audience made me very conscious of my loud camera shutter, but sometimes you just have to go with it – the facial expressions Tom pulls when singing just beg to be captured.

His banter was on form and, as the show went on, he was unable to keep a wide smile off his face.

One of the reasons for me wanting to go to Paris for this gig was the hope that a few of the guests on the latest album – a collection of duets with French artists – would make an appearance.  This hope was borne out with Alex “Motherfucking” Beaupain joining Tom to sing Étrange Hiver, and they sounded every bit as good as on the record.

Returning to his back catalogue, Tom was “disappointed” by the ability of the audience to clap in time, but they were on point with their singing along.  The A & B Song love was clear, with many hoots and cheers as the song ended.

Photo Credit: Claire Stones

Next up was another song from the latest album and, following his possibly exaggerated explanation of how she became involved with the album, Alma Forrer joined Tom on stage to perform Half On My Mind.  The song was preceded by a little heckling, with a member of the audience pointing out that Tom was shorter than Alma in her three-inch heels. His response received a complaint as he gave Alma’s “height” in feet and inches, and it was an opportunity for a typical Tom retort, delighting the audience.  The live version – with accompaniment from only Tom on acoustic guitar – sounded just as beautiful as the version on the record.

This was followed by an off-mic version of Bloodless.  The whole audience joined in, and Tom – mid tour and a few days since his last laundry day – went into the crowd with his guitar.  This elicited a few chuckles when he reached the lyric “we smell so very clean”.  This was definitely one of the highlights of the show – which didn’t actually have any low points.

Next up was Sebastian Collinet playing the keyboard on Wild Love.  The different sound of this song – without the duet element – was interesting to listen to after having the album on repeat, but the beauty of the song was not lost – the escalating keyboards still having the same impact.

Continuing with the songs from the latest album, Tom was joined on stage by Clou for Speeding Cars.  They performed it sitting on the piano stool in the middle of the stage.  It was a delight to hear.

Photo Credit: Claire Stones

We were then back to the back catalogue with Walking2Hawaii.  It sounded as great as usual, even with the slight technical issue which necessitated the crowd providing the whistling part.

Another fan favourite followed – Mend Your Heart.  The beat throughout the song has a great effect on the body, especially when accompanied by Tom’s spoken part.  You can feel that beat in your head.  This merged into One Mississippi, which had the crowd as excited as they had been at any other point during the show.

The obligatory encore was given, and for the first song – Gingko – he was joined on stage by chien noir.  Truly beautiful, it deserved the rapturous applause it received.

Photo Credit: Claire Stones

Finishing with The Boy With The Bubble Gun – sans bubble machine – the audience lapped it up, and clearly would have been happy for the show to continue for another two hours.

The gig was extremely enjoyable – even for someone like me who is one of those who had previously been “dragged along by friends” and has now seen Tom McRae a further five times since.  You can find a review of his latest album here.

Tickets are now available for UK dates later in the year.

Further photos can be viewed here.

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