LISA GERMANO 29/04/03 Théatre Barbey, Bordeaux, France.


I usually don’t like concert reports but I’m writing this one because it was so magnificent that I somehow want to keep some trace of it. That was a tiny women festival featuring Emily Mandell & Maria McKee. We thought Lisa Germano was supposed to headline the evening but in fact she played after E. Mandell’s sexual tiny dances and country-jazz songs.

Lisa Germano toured all by herself, no manager, no musicians, no selling merchandise after the show. She came on stage wearing the clothes she was wearing in the afternoon during the interview. She didn’t try to look classy and she didn’t look classy but as matter of fact she was. She was natural, which contrasted with the other female song writers playing that night.

She was supposed to play songs accompanying herself either on the piano or on the guitar. Right away there was a problem with her guitar amp which did not work, so she started to play the piano. She tried two or three times to seize the guitar but the guys did not manage to fix her amp so she shook their hands and politely dismissed them. ‘That’s ok, I’m going to change my own set’ she said, a bit embarrassed. And she resumed the concert for the few people smart enough to be there that night. Surprisingly, there weren’t much people to attend the show but it was all the more intimate. Each time someone made some noise accidentally, he would be blamed for it by a dozen of reproachful glances from the surrounding spectators. Since she couldn’t play the guitar she spent almost the whole concert in profile, sitting up straight, playing the piano and gently struggling with the microphone.

She changed her usual set and we saw a particular one in which there was just her hands caressing the piano keys and her endearing, touching voice. The songs somehow seemed more beautiful than on the album because they were stripped down to the maximum: piano and voice.
She mainly played songs from her last album entitled Lullaby For Liquid Pig, which, she said, took her two years and a half to make and that she likes very much. ‘It is about not being able to sleep and constantly tossing and turning in bed because you cannot cope with your problems and the funny thing is that it’s called lullaby but the songs are not really lullabies, they are quite sad…’ and she plays the wonderful song entitled ‘Lullaby for liquid pig’ to illustrate her words. As usual she speaks a lot in-between the songs, she explains with what deals the song she is going to play. You can see that she’s not totally comfortable with that and that’s what makes it all incredibly touching. Then she plays the song and often plays another one or two in a row.
She just played 4 songs which are not on Lullaby: ‘Wood Floors’ from Slide, ‘Cowboy’ from Happiness, Messages from Sophia (‘You couldn’t care if I died but I haven’t finished quite yet…Lies, lies…you can carry me home now…’) & ‘We Suck’ (encore) from Love Circus.

I don’t exactly remember the order of the set list which she gradually made up but I remember about which songs she talked:
‘Sometimes you have to forgive yourself in order to move on and other times you’ll have to say stop, this is not me, I have to change…’ ‘Candy’ is about drinking too much she said uneasily and then she starts the song, Piano…  ‘Oh Yeah, it’s my favourite feeling…’ she utters in a suave voice… She did not stop at the end and carried on with another sad song and ‘All the pretty lies’. A peculiar thing is that you understand better her lyrics in concert than on the album.
Another time she stops and explains that she wrote the following song about her seeing people dying and consoling herself thinking she is still alive and kicking and there is love to be found. She plays the hoping for better days ‘From a shell’ but undermines the feeling of relief playing the drunken, melancholy ‘Liquid pig’ which was more beautiful here than on the album.
‘Nobody’s playing’, she said, is about us believing that there will always be some friend to cope with our problems but at some point nobody gives a shit, nobody’s playing no more and you have to face that. At the end of this piece full of disillusion, she played the ironic ‘it’s party time’, which all the more strengthened the bittersweet atmosphere.
You can feel the concert is coming to its closure. ‘The funny thing about me is that I don’t like to play for a long time’, she explains, ‘anyway, you guys have had enough of me’. A girl yells ‘it is never enough of you’. Lisa answers ‘Yes it is’. I guess the girl was right because after the show I listened to her albums for 2 entire days. I discovered Love Circus again and ended listening ‘We suck’ about eight times in a row. She talks about her mother, how she didn’t want her to end the album with that song entitled ‘… to dream’ but she did it all the same because it doesn’t seem sad to her, it’s about not wanting to see her mother die… it’s actually a very old song. ‘I don’t wanna see you die…’

Encore: she didn’t really know what to play but some fans suggested she should play ‘We suck’ which is definitely one of her best songs. She said ‘I’ll try but you’ll have to indulge me if I make a mistake’. At some point (when she sings ‘He knows he got away with it’), she lets the piano notes resonate and says ‘I knew I was gonna fucked that up, I knew it, that’s the most important part, I’m sorry’. (She could have kept playing because no one would have really realized it but she knew she wasn’t right so…) She resumed the playing immediately so that there is no silent moment. She makes the mistake a second time, apologizes and manages to go on the third time. The song has never been that beautiful. Voice and piano.
She makes one or two mistakes near the end of the song as well but only idiots could care because it was particularly beautiful and her being sorry increased the emotion. She ended the song on another mistake (when she utters ‘We suck’ for the last time in the song). She kept on playing saying ‘well I suck. We suck. I guess that’s the message of this evening. We suck. Thanks. Goodbye.’

My words to describe this particular concert might give you the impression that the atmosphere was very much depressing and heavy but it was not like this at all. The touching presence of Lisa Germano prevailed over the melancholy dimension of her songs. She does not sing with tears in her voice. It’s definitely not the same feeling than when you listen to one of her albums. In concert, it’s just beauty and emotion that can bring tears to your eyes…
I was so moved that I couldn’t stand Maria Mc Kee’s music longer than one song (in-between Queen and the Lion King soundtrack). It would have spoiled the memory of this concert…

Set List (sorry for the order):
Nobody’s playing
Liquid pig
From a shell
It’s party time
All the pretty lies
Lullaby for liquid pig
…to dream
Messages from Sophia
Wood Floors
+ We Suck

/june 15th 2003/