Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Johnny Hallyday: Live in Los Angeles

Johnny Hallyday kicked off his live performances for 2012 with a date at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles last month.

It will be a big year for Hallyday on the live front, with a major tour of France sheduled to begin shortly, and dates outwith France in New York and London in October, as well as other shows in Moscow and Tel Aviv.

Much as it would have been great to be there, the budget of the Vive Le Roq blog doesn't exactly stretch quite that far. But some video has emerged online, and it gives a hint of what the show was like and how the future dates in his tour might shape up to be like.

A Johnny Hallyday tour is a big deal in France, and it seems strange that an artist who has sold quite so many records over such a long career could play a comparatively low-key gig in LA.

Hallyday spends much of his time in LA, enjoying the relative anonymity he gets there, so a show there gave him the chance to play in his own backyard, away from much of the pressure and expectations of the French audience and media, and to the delight of expats and francophiles in California.

During the show he noted that the concert marked a point where his life started again, and given that it was in LA in 2009 that he seemed close to death, it's probably no overstatement.

He also made clear that the tour's not a 'farewell' or 'retiremement' tour, telling the press that the tour marks a fresh start, and that the LA show was more a showcase of Rock 'n' Roll that a preview of the French dates.

Hallyday still remains an unknown to much of the anglo media, the American reviews confirming this again. The Los Angeles Times saying that while he survived changing musical fashion over the decades,  "the concert itself argued that he's simply absorbed those trends; many of his songs sounded like French-language facsimiles of tunes by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, while others folded in traces of soul and disco."

Johnny influenced by American music? Who would have thought it ;-)

Remember that Hallyday worked with a pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page? Don't think that the LA Times' critic does. Still, at least they noticed that he covered a few songs by American artists including Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix. Although I reckon Hallyday made the song as much his own as Hendrix did - it wasn't Hendrix's song in the first place - just that his version is probably the best known. And let's remember which singer gave Mr Hendrix a break in '66...hmmm.

Still, a (mostly) positive review for Johnny despite the shortcomings of the journalist in putting Mr Hallyday into his rightful place in rock. They concluded that Johnny was performing like an actor in Les Miserables (again revealing their lack of knowledge of French culture) but was "portraying a part and portraying it with skill."

So a forward-looking step for one of France's most significant musical artists, and a continued challenge to expectations.

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