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New Year’s Eve Party: Adelaide and the Oysters Concert

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Nine Chapter 16

̶  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the greatest band in the City of Light, taking you from now to midnight: Adelaide and the Oysters!

As Joaquín leaves the stage, Raphaël brings up the backlights and turns on the PAR-can spots. Simona plays a riff on her Rickenbacker bass, Héloïse doubles it on bass drum and toms: Applause gives way to bubbling delight as ‘Time of the Season’ begins. Cool and soulful, Ada’s richly-textured vocal fills the space; Riva rounds off each line with a lick from her keys while Muriel punctuates the flow with Strat downstrokes. It’s clear this band can play: There is no play-acting here, no kittenish coyness or bashful bluffing, no mannerisms to disguise inadequate means: The band is tight, and delivers the song with utter conviction. ‘What’s you name? Who’s your daddy?’ The call-and-response works like clockwork; the chorus sounds with powerful authority. The joy in the room becomes tangible as Muriel lays down snappy guitar licks beneath Riva’s keyboard solo; what most impresses me, though, in the instrumental ending, is the majesty of Héloïse’s drumming: From behind her five-piece kit, her articulation of the music is impeccably rhythmic. The audience, divided between those standing in groups and those seated on the sofas, is one in their enchantment.

Through the Zombies, the Stones, the Beatles, the band celebrates the spirit of rock ‘n roll even as, fully in the moment, they incarnate it. Listen! Giving ‘She’s Not There’ a spectral quality, Ada’s vocal finds the ethereal pitches of absence, while on ‘Tell Me’, her dark swagger complements the band’s sultry menace. Flaunting bravado in the face of vulnerability, the defiant chorus of ‘Heart of Stone’ belies the relaxed cadence of the verses.

Listen! The band’s rendition of ‘Old Brown Shoe’ is ebullient; its shuffle beat and surging bass reaffirm our conviction: Only a god who can dance could move us to believe! ‘You’re Gonna Lose that Girl’: The call-and-response alternation of lead and harmony brings a potent charm to the full-band vocals. Then, on ‘Lady Madonna’, pounding boogie-woogie piano, underpinned by rolling bass and syncopated drums, make the exuberance irresistible.

Listen! Muriel’s chopped guitar chords strike a reggae-like accent while Simona’s bass lays down a legato rhythm; over this blues backbeat, Ada’s throaty vocal proclaims, ‘She’s a Woman’. Héloïse, in the chorus, punctuates the sibilant fricative of Nicole’s maracas with blows to the bell of her ride cymbal. Riva takes the solo, bending the strings to create a jangle as warm as her Fireglo. But it is Muriel’s brash downstrokes that rule this rocker, keeping us all bopping to the close.

Listen! Tight and dirty, Riva’s wicked Rickenbacker rhythm combines with Simona’s ostinato bass to quickly bring ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ to boiling point: The earthy rawness of the playing electrifies me! Ada’s voice is the vital spark that sets the mix aflame, blending human and divine, fusing body and mind: Is that not why I am here tonight? To make of my body and senses the subject of my self, to honour the feminine in me? I feel your presence quickening my blood as the vocal harmonies fill the room; as you turn to face me, my heart goes boom. Look! A countdown clock appears on the backdrop, infusing time into eternity. The band gives the coda a final flourish, then segues into the collective countdown. Zero hour! A mirror ball heralds midnight. With your lips you extinguish a thousand lights as I take you in my arms; with a slip of your tongue you bring them back on, this time as scintillating stars. I have seen the light! Now let the ceremony begin.