Concert Review: Yann Tiersen & Piano Chat

French musician Yann Tiersen played at Belly Up on May 15

By Kayleen Fulton

Yann Tiersen & Piano Chat
Belly Up
May 15, 2012


Yann Tiersen’s music hit me like a ton of bricks the first time that I heard it. No surprise here – I first heard his stuff on the Amelie soundtrack. My sister had just seen the movie and immediately downloaded the soundtrack and I remember driving in downtown San Diego when she put that CD in. The trip immediately turned from simply a mode of transportation into a way of seeing the world around us, a way of viewing a thousand events and people in ten minutes, the way you would see it happen in a quick and forceful movie about the culture in any foreign city.

I’d been waiting for Yann Tiersen to come to San Diego for years. I went to Coachella in 2010 with the primary goal of seeing this man play the most beautiful music I’d ever heard in my entire life… but the Icelandic volcano eruption resulted in some artists being stuck in their hometowns, and it moved slots around and his got moved up by 4 hours – a fact I was only aware of two hours after he played.

So I suspect that I was the first person in January to buy a ticket for his Belly Up show on May 14.

He’s been playing piano since he was four-years-old and violin since he was six-years-old… minus his teen years when he started a rock band in 1983 with his electric guitar to emulate the punk rock genre that was proving to be one of the 80s most valuable contribution to music.

If you’ve made it this far, I encourage you to listen to something while you read this since I’m writing it while listening… listen to “A quai” or “La noyee” so you can understand the reverence with which I speak.

The opening act, Piano Chat (that’s ‘chat’ as in the french word for ‘cat’), was lively to say the least. I honestly don’t think I can say that I’ve ever enjoyed an opening act more. It was just a young guy playing all of his own instruments, a multitasker in the style of tUnE-yArDs. He made fun of his own French accent during every pause, jumped into the crowd and played his guitar in the middle of the audience and used the weirdest instrument for his last song. I couldn’t even tell you what it was.

Such a large roar from such a small venue was fantastic to hear from the Belly Up crowd when Yann Tiersen made his way up on stage in green chucks and a flannel hanging open over a record label t-shirt.

He played a healthy mix of old songs and new songs and blew away everyone in the crowd with every single track. I took my friend Ryan who didn’t know Yann Tiersen before the show and he awed after the show, “I’ve never seen anybody use a violin like they were playing a punk rock show.” Tiersen’s bow was already fraying just a couple songs into the show, but the really amazing part was that every single one of the six people on stage played with the same intensity that Tiersen took out on his violin.

And what a perfect blend, the classical training that he received when he was very young and the punk rock that he admired as an adolescent. For a completely different, lighter and more Jonsi-tasting sound, check out the song “Fuck Me”.

His two new albums are more about the synthesizer and the emotion put into the lo-fi sounds while his older songs often got him mistaken for a composer of soundtracks.

I definitely recommend that you give this guy a shot, if your musical range will allow you to go so far as to let the this anomaly make its way into this culture dominated by techno, dubstep, electronic and “indie” music that’s been emerging as our generation’s contribution to the musical world.

Here’s the setlist from last Monday night. “Monochrome” is another one I recommend for those new to Yann Tiersen.

Till the End
Fuck Me
Rue de cascade
Another Shore
The Gutter
Sur le fil
Le train
Chapter 19
Vanishing Point
Exit 25 Block 20
I’m Gonna Live Anyhow
Forgive me
Le quartier
The Trial