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Sébastien Tellier – Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 05/12/12

Sébastien Tellier – Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 05/12/12

11 December 2012, 12:55 | Written by El Hunt

Photograph by Gaelle Beri, taken at Traction Festival in July.

On the X Factor they like to feed us all the usual schpeel about artists needing ‘that special something’. Beneath the commercial motives, Cowell and co. do sort of have a point. There’s a huge difference between being a musician and a performer, and whatever that little X stands for, the man we’ve come to see tonight has it in the bucket loads.

Surrounded by colour-changing LED strips, Sébastien Tellier makes his entrance, standing arms outstretched like some sort of French musical messiah, before strutting down the stairs. It’s all very overblown and theatrical, but it’s also obvious Tellier isn’t taking himself too seriously. In a fetching shiny pashmina and those obligatory shades, it’s like he’s walked straight out of the ‘Kilometer’ video – thankfully minus the creepy hotdogs. His now infamous beard blows all of the feeble leftovers from Movember out of the water. It might be a nippy evening in Shepherds Bush, but it feels like we’re at a painfully trendy Parisian electro-pop night.

The first half of the set is dominated by My God Is Blue, and the initials ‘S.T’ blare out from back of stage in the same fancy geometric arrangement as the album artwork. The stage is awash with a blue haze of lighting; ‘Russian Attractions’ and the dramatic drawn-out balladry of ‘My Poseidon’ go down a treat. Tellier brandishes a plastic cup of what he claims is “only water”, before addressing the room in a mixture of French and English. He finishes his glass with one almighty swig. “And that’s the end of the show!” he booms, chuckling heartily. He makes to leave up the stairs, before spinning round. “Sexuality!” he yells, and in an instant the room goes mad.

With plenty of crotch-grabbing and gyrating, Sébastien Tellier unleashes ‘Roche’, ‘Look’ and Eurovision entry ‘Divine’ in quick succession. It quickly becomes apparent why Sexuality has been dubbed ‘electrosexy’. A particularly indulgent ‘Kilometer’ takes about two minutes to start up, Tellier blowing kisses into the audience whilst the blasting synth intro builds maximum suspense. He has the whole room wrapped round his little finger, and he knows it.

Tonight has largely been about entertainment, but Sébastien Tellier goes on to prove that he can do serious too, sometimes at the most surprising times. Sitting before his keyboard, he announces that he fancies a cigarette, and a girl on the front row obliges, throwing him a packet. He contemplates lighting it before throwing his head back and hooting with laughter. Then, just like that, he leaps into ‘La Ritornelle’ and tingles go down the spines of everyone in the room. “Oh nothing’s gonna change my love for you/ I wanna spend my life with you” sings Tellier in a midst of jazz licks, before disposing with almost all musical accompaniment for a stripped back rendition. It is nothing short of beautiful.

For his encore, the Frenchman remerges wearing a Jesus-esque robe complete with a sequined medallion; in homage to the cult-inspired My God Is Blue. It is highly amusing but all the same, Sébastien Tellier is no joke. Tonight’s show has confirmed that he is one of the most charismatic performers around, with a lighthearted air, effortless diversity and a seemingly endless songwriting talent.

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