Les Yeux NoirsThe Black Eyes, for all those less than Francophiliacs. Not peas, but gypsies. Well, not gypsies, but Yiddishers who cross over into funk. An unlikely sounding combo, but this is, almost undoubtedly, the world's best practice bar mitzvah band. I jest, of course. Though, I imagine they're easily that.

Les Yeux Noir present fabulous and fabulously passionate music. The two classically-trained violiniste brothers who front & founded the band (Eric & Olivier Slabiak) even had a tape of their grandmother singing. So, while the roots reach right back to India, they branch off, & out, & up, in a thoroughly modern idiom, to Hendrix, Celtic, country, Flamenco, manouche and even reggae.

That, of course, is the undeniable and undeniably startling thing about culturally-based songlines: they cross and intersect and overlap in the most startling ways, to the point where one can cross borders in ways no modern government would ever permit. And that, of course, is the earthmoving essence of it; reaching the parts other melodies and rhythms and tempos can't; capable of tearing down the walls and barriers between people which artificially and arbitrarily divide them.

But enough of the sermon: with rhetoric like that, if I'm not careful, I'll be nominated as the next leader of the free world!

To my eyes, it wasn't, say, your hardcore klezmer crowd, but a largely young one, looking for something nouveau. They got it and, clearly, if the frenetics of the dancefloor were any indication, got off on it. Indeed, LYN can be credited as being the original gypsy-punksters; cogent, as, in case you blinked, something like that is about the maddest, fully sickest thing in world. A proposition not easily challenged with the advent of cutely, comically-contrived names like Balkan Beatbox.

This 6-piece Parisian ensemble is virtuosic (not only musically, but emotionally; not that the two can, or should, be separated). From the powerful, precise, dependable backbeats provided by a drum, bass and guitar rhythm section, to the flaming solos of the Slabiaks and scintillating accordionist; (an instrument, I'll wager, you'll never hear sounding as sexy). Which isn't to say these are sober, studied instrumentalists (and vocalists), with furrowed brows and world-wearied dispositions. Eric, especially, is personality-plus, with his belly-dancing motifs and general clownabout demeanour.

This extraordinary energy (enough to power the city of Sydney for a year, I imagine, sans carbon) was preceded by the compellingly weird, out-there presence of Maja Petrovna, who makes Bjork look like Britney. She teeters so close to a wormhole somewhere between burlesque and buffoonery, it led a companion and I to speculate as to whether she was some kind of hoaxster, who'd invented a hybrid, pseudo-Slavic lingo, translated into experimental songs. Don't get me wrong: despite electronic glitches for which she candidly apologised, this one-woman-show-plus-occasional dancer was fascinating, with a rich, deep, Dietrich-like voice. The witty subversion of Little Red Riding Hood by her all-dancing accessory was a colourful highlight, too. Strange. And strangely attractive.


Venue: The Factory Theatre
Date/Time: Tues 29 July 7.30pm
Price: $30 Adult, $15 Concession  (plus booking fee) 
Bookings: (02) 9550 3666  or on-line (including video previews)

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