Yann Tiersen’s Friday night Irving Plaza gig began subtly enough, while still engaging the audience in an occasional three-part harmony and whimsical fare one might associate with the Amélie soundtrack, before slowly transforming into a richly-layered tapestry that could be viewed as one pulsing, dynamic composition. His six-piece touring band revels in a concoction of classical and modern instrumentation that evokes visible emotional response from concertgoers, whether or not they understand the lyrics or ideas within. Vocals, coincidentally, served as more of an instrument themselves. “All monuments of man, they’re sinking in vain,” Tiersen suggested on “Monuments,” the lead single from Skyline. The mantra, which concisely illustrates Tiersen’s brand of philosophy, was delivered with gentle, distorted veracity spilling against the track’s pensive drums.
Tiersen is an absolute beast on every instrument he touches, most jaw-droppingly so with the violin. His approximately two minute solo late in the set, replete with manic, broken string fury, was the undeniable highlight of the evening. Much credit should be given to the shimmering psychedelia of the backing band, all tremendous musicians in their own right on everything from banjo to mellotron, who add necessary harmony to what would be a sparse crooning totality from Tiersen. A simple refrain of “forgive me” on the song of the same name built beautifully with the piece’s desperate crescendo.
Skyline, the widely-praised new record, controlled a large portion of Tiersen’s setlist with Dust Lane tracks such as “Fuck Me” thankfully added to the mix. The band’s four song encore was capped off by the meandering notes of “The Trial.” As the instrumental component of the track was already recorded to by indie-rap icon Sage Francis some two years ago, its appearance on Tiersen’s new album was somewhat puzzling. It is interesting to note, however, that the same composition called forth similar themes from both artists. Sage’s coming-of-age parable parallels nicely with the abstract trial Tiersen speaks of. A finely-tuned and dense unit, Yann Tiersen and company once again wowed the uninitiated and appeased the New York faithful with a memorable, inspired performance.