Paléo Festival – Nyon – 22-27.07.2014

The wettest July ever around these parts apparently, so I was reasonably lucky to experience probably the only two rain-free evenings at Paléo 2014. I have the impression that, despite the rain and mud, it was a pretty good Paléo. I certainly enjoyed my two visits, on Thursday and Sunday, and Nadine heard some good music on Tuesday evening.

Most memorable for me was Elton John on Thursday night. He’s among the legends of pop music and I was keen to take the chance to see him live. At 67 one might expect him to be a lot less sprightly, but his piano playing was top notch and his voice remains strong, if not quite able to reach all the high notes. That latter problem was well handled with some subtle backing vocals from his percussionist, who drifted in and out as necessary, with Elton taking a lower road.

Elton John on the big screen at Paléo 2014

To hear the composer (but not lyricist, of course) of songs like Tiny Dancer, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Rocket Man and so on perform them live was a real thrill, even from towards the back of the Grand Scène where I couldn’t really sing along as much as I wanted to. His band, as you’d expect, were very polished. He mentioned that many of them have been with him a long time – the drummer since 1969 – so you’d expect them to be pretty tight.

I wouldn’t have described myself as a big Elton John fan, but I realised that I knew just about all of the lyrics to the songs above, and many others, so I guess it seeped in during all those Saturday afternoons listening to Lorcan Murray on 2FM (“the latest hits, the greatest memories”) during my teenage years.

Also good on Thursday night was Lisa LeBlanc, a Canadian singing mostly in French (or an older French-Canadian dialect). She played her brand of punk-folk with a huge amount of energy and good humour. The packed Détour tent loved it. The video below isn’t indicative of her live performance, but this song in particular went down well.

The National were my main interest on Sunday’s programme, but I was a bit disappointed. They warmed up as the set went on, but I don’t think their music works so well on an outdoor festival stage. Also, the lead singer’s voice was clearly troubling him. It’s such an important element of their sound and so it took a lot from the performance for me. We saw them at Montreux in (I think) 2007, and it was an entirely different story – a much more assured show.

The National at Paléo 2014

Still, it was good to see them live again and, partly thanks to the singer’s two possibly ill-advised treks deep into the crowd during the last two songs, they did get the crowd going eventually. I’m not sure the security staff or the roadies were all that happy though.

Aside from that I caught a half hour of Placebo (I’m not a fan, but they certainly made a big sound that seemed to go down well with the crowd), some of Youssou N’Dour’s set (not as much fun as I had expected) and, back on Thursday night, a few songs from La Rue Ketanou (Manu Chao-infused street music – an entertaining show).

We also brought the kids along on Sunday. The fact that we live a 15-minute cycle away made it possible to take them home as evening fell and (for me at least) come back again to catch more music. I think it was a nice thing to do, but I think we’ll probably wait a few years before doing it again. They get free entry until they turn 12, so plenty of time!

First family outing at Paléo