‘I worked on Hylas obsessively,’ Thomas Azier told Noisey about his debut record. Hylas, released in 2014, was made in Berlin, the city Azier called home for a period of 8 years. Now he lives in Paris, following a decision to make both a lifestyle and musical change. A change that was absolutely noticeable during Thomas Azier’s February 3rd concert in Amsterdam.
The moment the lights dimmed in Amsterdam’s Sugarfactory, a small and cozy venue, a synth started to hum. It was a rare moment when the night brought back memories of Azier’s colder, more industrial Berlin sound. A drumbeat accompanied by percussion and an electro loop followed once Azier’s band members came onstage, followed by the man himself. ‘You are a dancing starling / Flying high in a purple sky,’ he sang softly over the minimal music. And then the chorus kicked in, a clear indicator of Azier’s new direction: real drums and a groovy bass took over, pushing the synth sounds to the back and driving Azier’s vocals forward. ‘Starling’’s poppy vocals (‘Dance darling, dance darling, dance now.’) are also a clear indicator of the more upbeat and crowd-friendly sound of his new material.
Which is by no means a bad thing: Azier’s decidedly more acoustic and organic direction is energetic and infectious. When the band started playing ‘Talk To Me’, the second albums first single, its piano melody made it impossible to not bop your head and tap your feet. And when the drums kicked in in earnest, it was impossible to not dance along to Azier’s spirited vocals and his beautifully constructed rhythms and melodies. Thanks to the way Azier goes all out during his performances, it’s impossible not to miss some vocal flourishes when you go back and listen to the studio versions of his songs. During a gig he noticeably gives it his all, which makes for a wholly enthralling concert.
After ‘Talk To Me’ it was time for the balladic track ‘Winners’, which transforms itself into a pop banger halfway through, followed by a gorgeous, warm rendition of the song ‘Hylas’. Then the singer took the time to introduce new song ‘Berlin’, an ode to his previous home. And then the lights dimmed, apart from a ghostly yellow ray over the piano, the instrument that forms the tender and haunting base of song ‘Sandglass’, a true standout. ‘I’ve been told, rivers of gold in the middle of the desert, darling / I’ve been told about a treasure so old, but why bother if I need water,’ Azier’s falsetto howled over the delicate sounds of the piano keys. It’s safe to say this is one of the artist’s best creations, and it garnered loud applause.
‘Crucify’ on the other hand gets very loud during its choruses, with pounding drums and blaring guitars and synths. ‘Red Eyes’, a fan favorite, then provided more material to dance along to, while the dreamy and slow ‘Concubine’ told the story of two lovers. Hylas’ ‘Angele’ and newcomer ‘Call’ then kept everybody invested, until ‘Gold’ came around, a song with a surprising bass line and a second verse that has a bit of a modern Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe to it. It’s a song that is unabashedly pop and rousing: the driving bass, the frenetic drums, catchy backing vocals, all formed around Azier’s outstanding singing and showmanship. It was an upbeat closer and ‘Babylon’, the encore track that really ended the concert, a chanson in the truest sense of the word, stressing once more the diversity of Azier’s new music and the undeniable talent of its creator.
Written by Thijs Brandhof