By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement
She is the lady with the jet-black Rickenbacker. Her pearly fingers danced on the fretboard while she sang track after track from her latest album, You & Me, We Are the Same with effortless grace. Her music does not fall into a neatly defined music genre, but instead combines a plethora of traditions into one. It is a cornucopia of delights which she painstakingly crafted alongside the acclaimed producer, Bernard Butler. Roxanne de Bastion is a rare phenomenon of a raconteur and a philosopher rolled into one. Although she has played in Bristol once before at the Thekla, this is her first headline bill in Bristol, played at the intimate music venue of the Crofter's Rights.
Her backing band consisted of Zoe Konez and Jay Chakravorty, who are bona fide music artists with an extended catalogue. The duo delivered beyond the description of ‘Backing Band’ as they both displayed scintillating virtuosity much to the delight of the adoring crowd: Konez on the guitar and Chakravorty on keyboards and octapad. The three kindred spirits formed a huddle prior to the headline bill and walked into the stage amidst raucous applause.
Roxanne de Bastion set alight the main event with a spirited rendition of ‘Erase’ from, You & Me, We Are the Same. She then motioned the audience to come forward nearer to the stage. De Bastion then recruited an impromptu chorus consisted of all present in the audience for the next number for the evening, ‘Molecules.’ In her critically acclaimed recent album, ‘Molecules’ launches the proceedings like a flash of lightning before the rumbling thunder. The insistent chorus, ‘That might be God, they may have mislabelled that’ encapsulates metaphysical reality surrounding everything living and beyond. The jangling guitar strumming was accompanied by the rhythmic clapping from the audience. It was an indication that de Bastion and the audience are going to get on like a house of fire for the evening.
As an artist, De Bastion have been attempting to push the boundaries of the idiom of 3-minute song. She carefully veers away from self-indulgence and sugar-coated sentimentality. Furthermore, she puts to shame the platinum selling artists who cash-in on post-breakup mudslinging. De Bastion’s beat is big and broad, much like the love for her audiences. She makes them feel as if they are co-collaborators of her musical journey. ‘Heavy Lifting’ featured De Bastion on the keyboards where she kicked off the track with ethereal arpeggios, before sweetened with her vocals with the stark admonition, ‘Look! Don’t you start! I’m having a bad time!’ Its cathartic repose was greeted with a pin-drop silence from a mesmerised audience.
De Bastion’s keen interest in scientific themes did not end with ‘Molecules’, she seamlessly launched into ‘Red and White Blood Cells’ from her debut album where she brings a scientific analogy to a push ‘n’ pull dynamics of a relationship. The central theme of De Bastion’s recent album runs through the content like a stick of rock where she wants to convey the message that ‘There are more things uniting us, than dividing us...’ There isn’t the slightest whiff of pontificating but a challenge and a revelation to the listener. The current political zeitgeist is dominated by refugee crisis where politicians are intent on point scoring with little consideration for the unfortunate individuals at the heart of the crisis. De Bastion’s own family has had a first-hand experience of what it means to be fleeing for safety when the Central Europe was ravaged by waves of antisemitism during the WWII. At molecular level, irrespective of colour, cast, religion and ethnicity, we all pursue similar goals: safety, shelter and affection. The concept of ‘home’ is explored with the aptly titled number, ‘London, I Miss You’ which was replete with nostalgic musings and bittersweet sentiments.
Even after Roxanne de Bastion took the final bow for the evening, she was seen talking to audience members by the merch stand while signing autographs without the faintest whiff of ego. The headline act was preceded by two riveting setlists which featured Zoe Konez and Ellie James.
After her triumphant UK Tour, De Bastion is set to tour Germany in August for which she eagerly awaits.
Featured image: Milan Perera
Have you seen Roxanne De Bastion live?