Paris Combo. A celebration of the songs of Belle du Barry.
Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 9-11 2023.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Je ne parle pas français. But then it really didn’t matter at the uplifting and joyous celebration of the songs of Paris Combo’s charismatic chanteuse, the late Belle du Barry. Du Barry enchanted Adelaide audiences when former Artistic director Julia Holt brought Paris Combo out with Belle Du Barry to the 2015 Adelaide Cabaret Festival and this year Holt has been instrumental in bringing them back to celebrate the songs of Du Barry who died three years ago. This year the colourful cosmopolitan band has returned with four guest singers, Carmen Maria Vega, Billie, Aurore Volique and Mano Razanajato. It is a suitably eclectic company of performers who also play instruments. Volique accompanies on the violin and Razanajato plays double bass to his rendition of Pas á Pas (Step on Step). This unique ethnicity is also reflected in their music which ranges from French chanson to African rhythms, Latino music, American jazz and Swing. Their versatility is captivating and their rhythms enchanting.
Anyone who was at the Gala or Ali McGrego’s Late Nite Variety Nite Night will have been enchanted by Carmen Maria Vega’s charismatic srage presence The opening sound of the gypsy strains of the Moors sway seductively in Vega’s movement as she entices the music to life under the musical direction of David Lewis on piano and trumpet, the drums and vocals of Francois Jeannin, the nimble guitar strumming of Potzi, the alluring sound of Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac on double bass and Remy Kaprielan on soprano sax, percussion and vocals.
Throughout the performance Lewis introduces the songs for those in the audience who do not speak French. Although a knowledge of French will add to the appreciation of the topics, themes and issues that Du Barry explored and sang about, Paris Combo proves that music is the international language that can caress the lovers on the Seine, ,heal Love’s broken heart, decry the politicians, probe the aching impact of long term celibacy, take a breath to live life step by step and even bring the danger of pollution to the attention of the world. There is whimsy in their songs, mischief in their moves and an overriding sense of joy in tribute to the memory of Du Barry. At one point Du Barry and Lewis’s daughter joind the ensemble to sing one of her mother’s songs. Its soulful sound rises from a well of love. There is fun and laughter in their song. There is love in their tribute and there is a vibrancy to their performance that erupts in energy and celebration of a wonderful life. Audiences are invited to dance and the front rows of the Dunstan Playhouse transforms into a mosh pit. The entire theatre joins in a standing ovation to honour an exceptional artist and the rhythms and songs of Paris Combo.
I don’t speak French. I am not a musician, but I can be moved to tears, provoked to laughter and delighted by an ensemble that can move me with music and seduce me with song. From chanson to jazz to hip hop and the mystical airs of the Middle East. Paris ComboI has once again brought the remarkable talent of Belle du Barry to the attention of Australian audiences. This is their musical tribute to the Parisian spirit of joi d’ vivre. Enjoy their unique and exceptional music and song and the charm and seductive spirit of the late Belle du Barry at :
Photos by Claudio Raschella