Lazuli at The Borderline

French rockers Lazuli, described by one fan as resembling “medieval blacksmiths from the future”, came to London’s Borderline for the final date of their UK tour, and drew an appreciably-sized crowd for a Monday night in December. A well received tour supporting Fish has swelled their fanbase, and a lot of Fish t-shirts as well as one of two of Fish’s band were present in the audience.

Lazuli are the sort of band who put the progressive into progressive rock; they have a distinct sound that’s all their own, with few if any nods to obvious influences. Alongside guitars and keyboards they include French horn, marimba and the unique Léode, which looks like a cross between a keytar and a Chapman stick, and sounds like a cello from outer space, invented by Claude Leonetti as an instrument he could play one-handed after he injured one arm in a motorcycle accident.

And they sing entirely in French, but the English-speaking prog audience doesn’t seem to care.

They began with the slow-burning “Le temps est à la rage” from their most recent album “Nos Âmes Saoules”, building from simple piano chords to a full band rocker. From then on they had the audience mesmerised for the next two hours with intense, hypnotic music.

At times they locked into powerful rhythmic grooves, amazing for a band lacking a bassist, some percussion-heavy moments having a strong middle-eastern feel. Sometimes Romain Thorel played a bass riff on keys, but often drummer Vincent Barnoval carried the rhythm alone. There was some swapping of instruments; at one point the Romain Thorel took over on drums while Vincent Barnoval played marimba, and on another song both singer Dominque Leonetti and lead guitarist Gédéric Byar joined forces on additional percussion. By the time “And this is out last song” came around, two hours had passed like magic.

The first encore ended with the crowd continuing to sing the hypnotic instrumental refrain of “Les courants ascendants” long after the band had stopped playing, around which Romain Thorel and Vincent Barnoval then played an improvised jam on piano and drums. After that came their end-of-show piece “nine hands and an marimba” which this time morphed into an instrumental version of David Bowie’s “Heroes”. A fitting way to end an amazing show.

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