L’Imperatrice – Heaven – May 2nd 2019

This is how it must feel to be waking up from a coma after five years out of action – or stepping into a parallel universe. 

I consider myself pretty well informed about this world of popular music. So, how can I possibly have been unaware for so long of the French disco phenomenon that is L’Imperatrice? The 1,600 within this sold-out Thursday night at the iconic Heaven know. They mock my ignorance from afar. Or, maybe they’re just mocking my suit. I’ve had to rush straight from a work function. 

L’Imperatrice descend from space to join us under the arches of Charing Cross Station. With their backs initially to the crowd, their opener draws on space travel imagery. Dressed in white with star-trek stripes, you’re immediately aware that this is going to be a spectacle. Lights draw you in. You recall your favourite time ever had in a festival field and observe the similarity to this. Daft Punk might not play live right now but here we have a ready-made alternative. Seriously, it’s that good. 

Maybe tonight is the night to figure out if you’re in heaven”, asks Flore, L’Imperattice’s impeccable singer. Many don’t need to be asked for we already know. It’s impossible not to beam from ear to ear with the joy being created here.

The incredible graphics are playing a part. Disco balls of light and strobe, the earth spins whilst hands are clapped in tune with the beat. And when L’Imperatrice play ‘Vanille Fraise’ we have a summer scene of tennis umpires, clay courts and dodgy moustaches. Sweat-laden headbands spin like golden rings as tennis racquets swipe in time with the beat. God, this is glorious- a show that doffs its cap to retro 70’s sound and imagery whilst still managing to be entirely modern. 

 

The music is timeless; tunes that have forever been part of your life even though the truth is that this is the first time that you’ve heard them tonight. The groove heads down tried and tested paths; funk, jazz, pop, disco and happy house – a nostalgic soundtrack to your happiest summer ever.

And the images keep on giving. Here we have a grainy collection from when Zidane lifted the World Cup for France. The vocal appears to repeat the mantra that this is your last chance to love. The ascension is glorious as we all proceed to the inevitable lifting of the trophy. Jacques Cousteau gets in on the action; we’re now diving in an underwater world, searching for lost treasures whilst sharks swim in synchronised fashion all around us. It all beats the day job for sure.

I return to earlier thoughts. L’Imperatrice are ready-made headliners of your boutique festival. This would be euphoric in a field as the stars glisten above. Beat-Herder should book them. They’d be a magical fit.  L’Imperatrice – previously unknown in these quarters will not now be overlooked.

Highasakite – Heaven – February 28th 2019

Norwegians are cool. I formed this sweeping generalisation of an opinion over the last year. Back at Eurovision in Lisbon (here), I met three in particular who just seemed to accept, with little notion of the sniffiness that often attaches itself to your typical British Eurovision outlook, that some of the cheesy electro-pop tunes and glorious ballads on offer are sometimes special. 

 

It might seem like a logical leap to some but the coolness of Norwegians is a thought that I ponder whilst watching Highasakite at Heaven on Thursday night. For this is a show, and I imply no criticism by this, that oozes Eurovision. 

It helps that every song sung by Ingrid and Trond and the rest of their troupe is a douze pointer; whether it’s upbeat banger or stylised ballad, the tunes are allowed to stand out here amongst the highest of production values. 

There’s theatre – I miss the skull and beating heart entrance because I’m in a queue for beer but can’t help approving as contours fizz in a graphic display behind the band. When the light show really gets going and the costume changes hit full flow (the red leather is discarded with) you see the sense in scheduling this slinky swagger of a show at Heaven, this most iconic of clubs nestling in the arches beneath Charing Cross station. 

The first show on Highasakite’s Uranium Heart tour is a triumph; roots tangle, veins do what veins do and the arteries block to point of explosion as the beating heart clogs with uranium. 

They sound so much better live than on record’, is the general tone of conversation as we file on out. 

And you have to concede that there’s something in that line of thought. 

In terms of music, I choose the Norway option..