Yann Tiersen, NO at Wonder Ballroom in Portland, OR (June 15, 2014)
I’ve seen countless shows at Wonder Ballroom over the years, but there was something out of the ordinary on this particular night. The all-ages show drew in a diversified crowd: from a little boy who looked about five-years to an elderly woman of 65-years of age, to ladies in black from head-to-toe to clean-cut men in blazers. The stage was unusually jam-packed with equipment, even before Yann Tiersen’s crew had brought out all the instruments for the night.
Opening band NO shuffled on to the stage at 8:30 PM, greeting the audience largely oblivious of the LA quintet. Knowing their relatively smaller fame than the headliner, singer Bradley Hanan Carter lightheartedly thanked the twelve people who came to see them. Fronted by a vocalist with the baritone of Matt Berninger, NO’s anthemic rock seemed arbitrary to ease the crowd into Tiersen’s multifaceted music. But it soon became clear, both acts evoke emotional heights in their music. Song after song, for little-over-a-half-an-hour, NO pulled out stadium-style numbers conjuring a teeter-totter between The National and Springsteen in my head. It would probably be fair to say they had more than twelve fans by the end of their set.
After the clearing of NO’s equipment, the stage soon became cluttered again, as instrument after instrument took their place in order for Tiersen to easily move from the piano, synth, glockenspiel, melodica, violin, guitars, etc. After almost 15-minutes of washing our brains with a female voice singing in French over the speakers, it transitioned into a male with Scottish accent, signaling the beginning of the Breton’s set. Aidan Moffat’s stamp on the final track from the multi-instrumentalist’s latest LP,∞ (Infinity), “Meteorites”, is distinctive enough to pass as a lost track from an Arab Strap catalog. Without the presence of the lyricist/vocalist of the song, the post-apocalyptic lullaby faded as the star of the night entered the stage. For almost 90-minutes, Tiersen and his four-piece band kept up my interest with the ever-changing flavor: from post-rock to classical, from a big band composition to a solo piano piece. But out of all the instruments the composer played, the violin seemed to be the focal point. Tiersen often drew the bow fervently that by night’s end, several ribbons of horsehair became loosened. At this sight, I wondered if the setlist was planned to accommodate the deterioration of the bow since he did not replace the stick. But more prevalent sentiment was the indomitable beauty of the music, transporting me to the time when I walked along the shores of Tiersen’s native Brittany – a place where this visitor could believe a dimension beyond the visible reality.