17 years after its first edition, Rock en Seine remains one of the favourite topics in the music French press. Good line-ups, bad choices, surprising headliners, the growing interest for rap and r’n’b artists, the good old saying “It was better before”, this particular Parisian festival always caused much ink to flow. 2019 was no exception. However, after a difficult year in 2018, Rock en Seine seems to have find the right formula to gather a broad range of festival-goers. From young fans of the English soul sensation Jorja Smith to the army of The Cure fans invading the main stage field way before the concert, this year was definitely one of the best of the last years. In our previous article, we highlighted how diversified and well-balanced 2019 program was and it didn’t disappoint! Throwback to two crazy days at Saint-Cloud park.
Celeste, Mahalia and Jorja Smith, the golden trio of soul singers
Saturday 24th started in a dreamy and sunny atmosphere. Several soul and pop English female singers took the stage that day, as a celebration of women in music industry. For the record, Rock en Seine paid a specific attention to gender equality this year, for our greatest pleasure, with nearly 40% of female artists.
Celeste opened the ‘Cascade’ stage armed with 5 of her musicians. Her soul music, with a delicate taste of Jazz, enthralled the public.
After quickly passing in front of the Firestone stage to dance with the French folk-rock band Kitchies and the Norwegian singer Girl in Red, we went to see the promising Mahalia. The young English r’n’b and soul singer started early in her career, as she landed a deal with a records company at the age of 13. Showing the same maturity and precocity on stage, she made people dance and sing their hearts out from the first song to the very last one on the intimate stage “des 4 vents”. Her second LP is due for the 6th of September, keep your eyes peeled.
She was the second name announced for 2019 edition, Jorja Smith was one of the biggest exclusivities of the festival. At first glance, it could have seemed like an audacious bet. However, as she perfectly sang her singles “Blue Lights” or the more recent “Be Honest”, the success was obvious. One year after her debut at We Love Green festival 2018, the crowd gathered in front of the main stage was completely spell-bound. Her show was total: from magical lights to her powerful presence on stage, everything was perfect. She definitely owned the night.
Jungle to close the night
A Parisian festival without a Jungle performance cannot be decently be called a Parisian festival. We know that the English duo loves the French capital and, truth to be told, we love them too. They are one of my first memory of photographing a concert and I love their live sets to death. Nostalgic much, huh? Their set held no real surprise but who really cares. We spent what seemed a way too short hour dancing on songs from their first and second albums. ‘Heavy, California’, ‘Smile’, ‘The Heat’. All these hits felt like coming home.
In this soft euphoria, we went a last time on the main stage to see the madness of Major Lazer. Strong contrast with the atmosphere of the rest of the day, we spent little time there, preferring to head home to save energy for what would be the best day of the summer, hands down. Ready for day 2, people?
When the British and Irish rock storm invades Paris …
Everybody was waiting for this particular day for months. No kidding. This Sunday 25th, Rock en Seine would host the shows of Mini Mansions, Two Door Cinema Club, Sam Fender, Bring me The Horizon, The Murder Capital, Royal Blood andFoals. In one single day. The best line-up in one day in France, this year, for sure. A good reason to definitely make up with Rock en Seine program after the previous years.
We were then particularly excited when we arrived just in time to see the American from Mini Mansions went up on the stage ‘Cascade’. After their opening shows for MUSE at the Stade de France earlier in the summer, it felt good to be able to catch them again. Under a suffocating heat, they delivered a nice performance with a successful mix between the energy of Queen of the Stone Age and the elegance of Arctic Monkeys. When the first notes of ‘Vertigo’ started, everyone in the attendance was hoping to see the leader of the Monkeys join them on stage, but with no luck. Until next time!
4pm on the biggest stage, Two Door Cinema Club was there for an early and explosive start of the afternoon. What to say? They are loved and always cheered on in Paris. This one didn’t make exception with only 45 small minutes of performance. With a setlist made of hits from their 10 years discography, they pleased a large crowd of fans. From ‘What you know’, to ‘Are We ready (Wreck)?’and their new singles ‘Talk’and ‘Dirty Air’, we got a joyful and dynamic ‘best of’ performance. False Alarm went out this last June and we expect to see them soon again in Paris for a headline show.
One of the strong points of this year line-up, the pop phenomenon Sam Fender was also at Saint-Cloud. With an immaculate et emotional show, the young English singer showed that the hype around his first album –it has yet to come out, this fall- is justified. It’s a nice development for the musician. Only 3 months after his small –but packed and amazing- show at the Badaboum last May, he assured a strong 45 minutes set on the second biggest stage of the festival. A special mention to his single ‘Play God’, a favourite of us.
Just when you think that you can take a small break, this crazy day is catching up with you. Bring me the Horizon is planned on the main stage and nobody wants to miss this. BMTH offered a wild show to an even wilder crowd. Smoke, dancers, giant screen, every items of a giant production are there. For the better and the worst. amo, their last album, was widely celebrated on this single hour set.
At the other side of the festival site, we went to find the new Irish punk phenomenon, The Murder Capital. Following the path of IDLES, Fontaines DC and other Shame, the 5-pieces band is an open secret. They are the kind of advice you give to your music lover friends: “Go and see them, you’re not gonna be disappointed, I promise”. Apparently, we were not the only one to be curious about their performance, as Yannis Philippakis from Foals was also watching them from the side of the small Firestone stage. Speaking of which, the smallest stage of the festival was evidently too small. Many curious showed up to see for themselves the hype around the band. And what to add about the energy of the 5 members, confined to a small space on the stage, playing anxious and frenetic songs from their first brilliant album. They are already bigger than that.
Royal Blood and Foals, the kings of Rock en Seine
7:30pm. Showtime. Royal Blood was expected to play on the main stage. The power duo made a burning come back, two years after their last concert in Paris. Two new songs, the best of the best from their first two albums, a wild energy and lots of people in front of the stage. The perfect cocktail for an explosive performance. After spending several months enclosed in their studio to prepare what is likely to be a sulphurous third album, Mike and Ben were hungry of stage performances. A wild show, with its fair share of unexpected events (lose guitar cable, broken keyboard), but a completely thrilling one. It’s rock’n’roll, right? Did we lose our voices on “How Did We Get So Dark?”Yes. Did we stay captured on “Boilermaker”, the first the two new songs? Yes, again. Did we join the huge circle pit on “Ten Tonne Skeleton”? Honestly, no. But it’s only because I was carrying two heavy cameras. That will be for their next concert in Paris. Needless to say that the new album will be strongly expected after that.
9pm. Foals time. “Cascade” stage. We waited for this exact moment for a long time. Very long time. Rock en Seine 2019 is ready to reach its peak. The best rock’n’roll (yes, I firmly believe that) band around at the moment just had one hour to transport the whole crowd in their realm. Easy challenge for them. Their set was furious, violent, urgent, yet always controlled. Their music is raw, powerful yet irresistibly catchy. The crowd was dancing, jumping, screaming and celebrating the Part 1 of their brilliant album Everything Not Saved will be Lost. Foals have everything at the moment: a thoughtful, original, magical music with their distinctive signature, a charismatic leader that is a monster on stage, brilliantly talented musicians and a ferocious determination to carry their message. We witnessed that night one of the best lives of our life, ever. There wasn’t a single moment to go to waste, from the now classics of “Inhaler”, “My number”, “Mountain at My Gates” to the new “Black Bull”. The latter is the last single that the band unveiled and it’s announcing an even more enraged Part 2 for Everything Not Saved will be Lost. A show that will stay engraved in our memories for a very long time.
Rock en Seine 2019 closed on a wacky set from Aphex Twin. The historical character of the electro scene demonstrated once again why he is a legend on the main stage. An audacious bet from the festival organization, that must be saluted. Even if such concert is not appealing to all ears, Rock en Seine was the only event able to make him join the party. Congratulations on that.
This 2019 edition proves that Rock en Seine did not give up on the rock scene, as many people liked to say last year. With a fair balance between pop/soul/rock/electro and young/already established artists, this year was an amazing success. We went from surprise to delight so many times this week-end that we stop to count after the first couple of shows.
Thank you very much Rock en Seine and see you next year!