Live review: Melanie Pain at Servant Jazz Quarters

Melanie Pain

Melanie Pain - Credit: Archant

With the release of her new album now just a month away, things are certainly hotting up for Parisian pop star Melanie Pain. Before performing at Dalston’s Servant Jazz quarters, she might not have anticipated how literal this heat was going to get.

In a charmingly spit and sawdust downstairs room, Pain entertained a sweltering, sardined audience as a solitary fan struggled to cope with the demand. Fortunately, the melodic verses of title-track ‘Bye Bye Manchester’ provided an early breath of fresh air and quickly had the majority forgetting they were inside a makeshift sauna.

A borderline-pop artist who name checks Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey, Pain has two main strengths at her disposal. The first is her trademark, malteaser-light vocals, which, when placed over growling vintage keyboard and guitars, make for an intriguing sound that consistently sits between pop and indie rock. This is best displayed in the Vampire Weekend-like ‘Just a Girl’ – bubblegum sweet but with pounding drums and a penchant for raw, eighties synth.

The second strength is her natural inclination to write the majority of her songs in French. If it wasn’t for the melodic nature of the music, this could backfire and become alienating, but as an English listener, it lends the same sense of exotic mystery that Pain herself once found in The Smiths. The singer knowingly plays to this with the brooding La Cigarette, but in the Numan-nodding tech-noir of ‘7 or 8 fois’, it lends the music a sense of longing and loneliness that just wouldn’t be the same in any other language.

After admitting the venue is too small to hide away for an encore, Pain takes a short, on-stage break before entering the audience for an intimate solo keyboard rendition of the Smith’s ‘Panic’.

A few forgotten lyrics and false starts suggest the heat perhaps sapped Pain of some energy in what was otherwise a typically kinetic, witty display. At some points, she amusingly picked up the fan during songs to point it towards her grateful audience. By the end of the night, she had picked up a few more of a different kind.