Steven Brown @ El Lokal – May 25th 2022
Steven Brown @ El Lokal – May 25th 2022

Live Review: Steven Brown @ Le Séchoir and El Lokal – May 24th and 25th 2022

As a founding member of art rock collective Tuxedomoon, multi-instrumentalist Steven Brown has a long and storied career that has straddled the rock, avant-garde, and classical worlds, and includes connections to The Residents (who released Tuxedomoon’s first two albums, Half-Mute and Desire, on their Ralph Records label), the soundtrack of a ballet by Maurice Béjart (1982’s Divine), and an appearance in a Wim Wenders film soundtrack (1987’s Wings of Desire). Parallel to this, he has also maintained a steady stream of other projects, including both solo albums and work with his other bands Nine Rain and Cinema Domingo Orchestra. This year he released his first solo studio album since 1991’s Half Out, titled El Hombre Invisible, on Crammed Records. A run of European tour dates followed, of which we caught the first two, at Le Séchoir, a gallery space in Mulhouse, France, and El Lokal, a small bar in Zürich, Switzerland.

The atmosphere of the two venues couldn’t have been much different, the stark white gallery walls contrasting with the red curtains and decorated walls of the dive bar. And yet as a visceral representation of the boundaries that Brown has crossed between throughout his career, they also couldn’t have been more perfect. Joined by fellow Tuxedomoon member Luc Van Lieshout on flugelhorn and pocket trumpet, and Benjamin Glibert from the French band Aquaserge on guitar and bass, Brown played a set comprised primarily of tracks from the new record and Tuxedomoon classics.

Some of the tracks from El Hombre Invisible had originally been intended for the next Tuxedomoon project, which was scrapped following the passing of Tuxedomoon bassist Peter Principle in 2017. Brown opened the show with ”Warning,” the track which opens the album, which appears to address the relative indifference with which any number of warnings – pandemics, climate change, nuclear war, to name a few potential global catastrophes – are treated (“Every year they come to warn us, every year we say oh yes”). He followed this with ”This Land” from his 1987 album Searching For Contact, and followed this with”Balloonland” from Cinema Domingo Orchestra’s 2018 album Optical Sounds. The songs, of course, all got rearrangements to fit the trio format, which added a consistency in sound that made them all fit together perfectly.

From there, the majority of the set was spent going back and forth between songs from the new album and Tuxedomoon tracks. Classics including ”Muchos Colores,” ”Some Guys,” and ”In a Manner of Speaking” represented Brown’s Tuxedomoon years, while the new album was represented by tracks such as the title song, ”Dutiful Beautiful,” “The Book,” and ”It Occurred to Me.” Brown also played a cover of Italian singer Luigi Tenco’s “Un giorno dopo l’altro” which he originally covered on his 1988 EP Brown Plays Tenco. At about half new songs and half classics from his extensive back catalog, it was a set that was sure to please any fan.

Shows by Steven Brown are far too rare, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, it is one not to be missed.

Steven Brown setlist (same both nights)

Warning
This Land
Balloonland
Muchos Colores
Dark Temple
Dutiful Beautiful
Nella Tierra
Resist

Some Guys
Un giorno dopo l’altro
Kill
El Hombre Invisible
In a Manner of Speaking
The Book
It Occurred to Me

PHOTOS © MATT CONDON

Steven Brown – Night 1 – Le Séchoir in Mulhouse, France

Steven Brown – Night 2 – El Lokal in Zürich, Switzerland