Nouvelle Vague, perhaps the most famous only-covers band of all time, have delivered, according to me, two very good easy listening albums and one, last, not too impressive one. It’s that kind of music that goes very well in the background while you’re doing other things in the house, dining, or even working. For this reason, I thought their live show could be rather slow and dull, and was quite surprised when I saw them playing in London, which was, instead, very lively and energetic. Therefore, I was curious to see them again after a few years. But this was not the only reason why I wanted to go to the first “end of season” night of Martelive in Rome (9th Sept). Last time I went to one of their nights (starring the amazing Aprés La Classe) I had fun checking out all the miscellaneous artistic acts and stands Martelive put together in the labyrinth-like space of Alpheus, a pretty big discotheque.

However, this particular Martelive night was a much more overwhelming event than expected. The previous one was pretty packed already, but for this one it just seemed like all the youth in the city had gathered in a single place, which, for how big it is, struggled to contain such amount of humanity. We first waited about an hour in front of Alpheus with no idea about what was going on (not too exceptional for Rome standards), forming a sea of people coming from all directions. I remember that last time there was a remarkably civil queue in front of this venue, but not this time, for sure. And, by the time we got in the opening band, Italian hyped band Nobraino, which I wanted to see, had already finished. I’m sure I’ll have other occasions as they play here pretty often, but still, it sucked.

When we entered the main concert room, the air was already dense and sweaty, and the main concert hadn’t started yet. For the little I know it seems that Alpheus often becomes this challenging place to be in for a longish amount of time, and I definitely think they should do something about their ventilation system. Perhaps I’m not used anymore to see gigs in these inhuman conditions, or perhaps I’m just getting old. However, fortunately, the Nouvelle Vague show was a pretty good one, and I couldn’t really complain at the end.

What really bothered me for the whole time is that the band lineup was totally different from what I remembered. I was further from the stage back then, but I could still clearly recall a black-haired singer, pretty wild and with a powerful voice, and a petite blond singer with an angelic voice, much more subdue. This time, instead, in front of me stood a very tall, wild, blond girl with a deep voice and a petite black-haired with a sweet voice. What kind of mutation had happened, I kept wondering. And, wasn’t there a handsome black guy with dreadlocks as well?

The mystery was resolved once I looked at their website afterward and realized that, while the two main founders of the band remain constant throughout recordings and tours, their singers actually change all the time. Interesting that they do choose singers that have somehow a complementary, but still similar, way of singing with a deeper and a sweeter voice alternated. Another interesting thing is that they seem to require their singers to not know the original song they’re covering, so that they bring their creativity to the cover itself, which sounds like a cool experiment. In any case, from the website I recognized the two singers of this NV show in the names of Nadeah Miranda and Mélanie Pain (but I wouldn’t swear on fire!). I should probably do a bit more homework before I see a gig…

Despite their voices were not strong enough to properly emerge from the very good music the other guys play in the background, the stage presence of the tall blond girl (Nadeah?) was truly remarkable. With a captivating aura around her, she danced wildly, talked to the audience in all directions, invoked singing along. She kept climbing on the metal bar surrounding the stage, showing what was under her short dress. And at some stage she even stage dove and let people carry her facing down. Pretty wild stuff. Bossa nova rock’n roll style, most definitely. And it was entertaining.

This added to a good dynamic between the band members during the whole show, with alternations of all members playing, only drum and singer, only guitar and other singer, and so on. Again, with a different lineup, NV managed to deliver an impressive and incisive gig which adds to the easygoing atmosphere created by their recorded material. They are good musicians and their style is unique. But can the magic go on after three albums (only two of which really good)? We surely hope so, even only to see what the next singers will pull out in the next live show.