WHEN you think of it, most band names are utterly meaningless. What significance, really, does the moniker U2 have?
Paris-based duo Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux wanted a name that truly meant something. Nouvelle Vague was the tag applied to a handful of groundbreaking 1960s French films, but it also refers to new wave and bossa nova (when translated into English and Portuguese).
The former recalls the music movement that swept the globe for a few years either side of 1980 and provides this band with almost all their material -- while the latter describes the 1960s jazz and lounge arrangements those songs are performed in.
It's a smart move that has made Nouvelle Vague one of the few covers acts to be taken seriously in their own right. But when it comes to live performance, Collin and Libaux fade anonymously into the background, and it is a floating cast of female singers upon which success or failure depends.
At the Tripod gig, it's the turn of relative newcomers to the Nouvelle Vague fold, Cuban-born Liset Alea and former Miss France Mareva Galanter. The two imbue proceedings with a palpable sensuality, but it is Alea that's the born performer. Her charisma is electric as she prowls the stage and it is she who has to amuse the crowd when a technical hitch disrupts proceedings early on.
For the most part, the formula pays dividends with The Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen in Love', XTC's 'Making Plans for Nigel' and The Specials' 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning'. Not everything works, though -- Gallanter's interpretation of The Sex Pistols' 'God Save the Queen' is simply too pretty to do the song justice and a number of French new-wave tunes fail to engage.
That hardly matters, though, when the band led by Alea deliver rousing takes of The Dead Kennedys' 'Too Drunk to F***' and Violent Femmes' 'Blister in the Sun'. Magnifique!