Since opening night of his tour in Lyon in June of this year Franck Carducci and his Fantastic Squad have been a regular on stage, touring abroad in the UK and France still in support of their latest album The Answer. This The Answer Tour, which almost secured him a support slot to KISS plus a careering highlight as support act to Sting on the 29th of June, led him to one of his favourite venues De Boerderij on the 10th of September. DPRP's Jan Buddenberg reports.
Plans of recording the show for a future 2023 release were shortly jeopardised due to low pre-sales, but thankfully low attendance was (just about) avoided and the event could go ahead as planned. Joining Carducci on the night as support act, like he had done so before on many occasions in the UK, was That Joe Payne. This time performing a solo performance, as opposed to his recent band performance at the ProgDreams festival.
As it happened I arrived at the exact same moment as my DPRP colleague Edwin Roosjen. Once we entered the venue, after a warm welcome by the friendly Boerderij staff, this provided the perfect opportunity to exchange our latest discoveries and mutual musical experiences, Lifesigns' concert from two weeks prior being one of them. Two tasty beverages in it was then high time to settle ourselves slightly off-centre to the right side of the stage for That Joe Payne's show.
That Joe Payne
Introduced by Carducci, wearing a highly desirable orange-coloured That Joe Payne T-shirt in support, a broadly smiling and enthusiastic Joe Payne entered the stage under modest applause. Dressed the part in a glamorous black suit with accompanying tights and high heel boots, an outfit ensured to meet the approval of Liza Minelli, he gracefully seated himself behind his keyboard and opened his set with Intro (By Name. By Nature.).
Instantly hitting his high (HIGH!) notes and welcoming the crowd with open armed flamboyancy once the song ended he continued with the exquisite What Is The World Coming To. During this song, despite full knowledge of Payne's amazing vocal range after having seen his excellent live DVD and a concert stream of his show in Southampton, it became clear nothing really prepares you for the emotional purity of his beautiful voice, and together with gifted and refined piano play he fully grasped the audience's attention.
Sliding comfortably into Moonlit Love, many of those present (if not all) were by now simply staring at the stage in complete fixation, rewarding Payne with a well-earned energetic applause. Charming the audience in relaxed style with typical British humour in his intro the burlesque melodies of Live The Dream followed, after which Payne's delightful stood still by his time as vocalist for The Enid in form of the magnificent One And The Many.
Astonishing everyone in this theatrical song with his flawless, extremely high-pitched vocal cords Payne then suddenly broke performance due to a technical glitch caused by his equipment, which on the day before had managed to escape his car and paid an unforeseen visit to the streets of Utrecht. Kneeling gracefully, Payne quickly fixed the problem at hand and started all over for a baffling performance of the song with mesmerising elegance, emotion, drama and theatrics while grabbing infinitely with his piano play and strong operatic vocal sense which on occasion reminded of Freddie Mercury.
Payne confirmed us that the standing ovation (well, there are no actual seats in this venue...) would be most sufficient for Carducci's performance later on. He invited the audience to sing along to his current single Falling In Love Is Easy. Shortly after, he sadly made the announcement for the final two songs of his set. As before, the audience watched speechlessly his every move under brightness of sound, courtesy of his sound engineer Max Read, as he ended his near perfect performance with I Need A Change and the breathtaking End Of The Tunnel. Taking in a grand appreciating applause for his performance he finally made his way to the dressing room.
Intro (By Name. By Nature.) What Is The World Coming To Moonlit Love Live The Dream One And The Many Falling In Love Is Easy I Need A Change End Of The Tunnel
Franck Carducci & The Fantastic Squad
A short intermission later, with temperatures now at a comfortable warmth thanks to Payne's engaging performance, it was time for Carducci and his Fantastic Squad to turn the heat up. Which they most certainly did!
I remember when Carducci played with Comedy Of Errors at the Parktheater in Alphen Aan Den Rijn on the 26th of September 2014, and his excellent band played a strong and entertaining set. Tonight's radiant performance topped this many times over for his new squad consisting out of Mary Reynaud (vocals, guitar, percussion, theremin & sensuality), Cédric Selzer (keys), Barth Sky (guitar), and Léa Fernandez (drums) absolutely crushed it.
Transporting everyone back into a comfortable vibrant 70s atmosphere they basically turned the lucky ones who attended the spectacle into willing and able slaves to prog-'n-roll for the full duration of two hours. A time during which the sweetly smiling Fernandez pounded her drums with surgical precision and panache, and Sky played in spirit of his surname as he reached for the stars with his glamorous poses, riffs and astounding solos. At one moment during the concert, I don't recall the exact moment as much extravaganza happened before and after, he strapped it behind his back and played it while 'running' vigorously on stage. An amazing sight.
Selzer played with similar gusto and flair standing in the back behind his keyboard from which conjured virtuous symphonic and psychedelic enrichment. Reynaud acted as centre point of attention in her own charming way with theatrical interactions, costume changes, vocal support and various show elements. Combined with a spontaneous and enthusiastic smiling Carducci at the helm, shifting through a variety of basses and guitar while firmly expressing his strong vocals, it certified a visually captivating and highly entertaining set. The band's overall incredible tightness and phenomenal individual performances made it even better.
All members were dressed in hip and befitting rock-'n-roll-inspired outfits. The set opened with the slowly intensifying Love Is The Answer and instantly rubbed off on the highly responsive crowd, who rewarded it (like many times during the night) with loud "animalistic" roars and applause. Watch the DVD sometime next year and you'll get the picture. Following through with the excellent Closer To Irriversable, it was Reynaud who then spiced up the festivities, acting out her voluptuously seductive Theremin moment in the yet-to-be-recorded The Betrayal Of Blue.
From there on in, as the band convincingly zapped through Mr Hyde & Dr Jekyll, the energy levels received from and returned to the band reached unprecedented heights. If this highly charged energetic atmosphere could have been preserved somehow, I believe many an energy crisis could be prevented or solved. This concert's entropic momentum was kept at a constant high with a brilliantly performed short version of the lengthy A Brief Tale Of Time and the exciting The Ecstasy Of Gold, an Ennio Morricone cover.
The Squad temporarily left the stage and left it in the capable hands of Carducci himself, who with laughter on his hands slowed things down with a solo performance of Beautiful Night. This disarming scene switched sides when Carducci took his own leave of absence with the Squad returning for a scorching performance of The Angel. Highlighted by an enthralling performance of Reynaud, who during the song got to spread her wings (see a video here) in a bright variety of ways, this steaming blues composition, with luscious smouldering Led Zeppelin vibes, set up beautifully for a strong rendition of Torn Apart.
No Carducci show is complete without the musical tale of Alice's Eerie Dream. Once Carducci slipped on his Madhatter's hat and briefly explained the story, the song followed in all its glory. Over the years, this composition, the only one featured from his debut record Oddity, has turned into a fixed live staple in their set. Tonight's performance showed exactly why, as the quintet whipped out its various moods and atmospheres with relentless musicality, highly interactive play and outright joy in performance.
Not letting go, the compelling and epic The Asylum followed, and for me topped this fantastical performance. Many watched and enjoyed in awe, including a highly surprised and bewildered young fan who during its twelve immaculately grabbing minutes was enjoying her own Hatter-fame moment. The Beatles cover The End then signalled the regular set had run its course.
A short refreshment pause, but then it was back to rocking business with Slave To Rock 'N Roll. A final parting gift to the audience was shaped as an unamplified performance of On The Road To Nowhere, reuniting the band with a still broadly smiling and seemingly cheerful Joe Payne. Taking their bows, Carducci promised that the upcoming DVD will contain all of tonight's blood, sweat and tears, bum notes, warts 'n all. Together they gratefully waved their goodbyes to deafening applause and left the stage.
Winding down for a while at the bar, with a subsequent meet and greet with drinks and befriending hugs all around, this magical night came to a fully satisfying close as I finally drove homeward. Both Payne's and Carducci's extraordinary sets surpassed every expectation and will surely see me go for afters when they eventually return.
A huge thanks for De Boerderij in making it all happen despite lower attendance. I look forward to the evening's registration with high anticipation. Even if only a fraction of their electrifying performance is stored on disk, then Carducci and his miraculous/fabulous/phenomenal/fantastic (pick your own superlative there) squad will have an assured winner on their hands. That will be one with the potential to end up high on my 2023's year contender list. To sum it all up in one word, this night was simply stated: FANTASTIC!
Setlist Frank Carducci & The Fantastic Squad
(Love Is) The Answer Closer To Irreversible The Betrayal Of Blue Mr Hyde & Dr Jekyll A Brief Tale Of Time The Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone) Beautiful Night The Angel Torn Apart Alice's Eerie Dream Asylum The End (The Beatles)
Slave To Rock 'N' Roll On The Road To Nowhere (with Joe Payne)
Links For Frank Carducci & The Fantastic Squad
Links For That Joe Payne
That Joe Payne official home page
That Joe Payne Bandcamp page
That Joe Payne on SoundCloud
That Joe Payne YouTube channel
That Joe Payne's Patreon page
That Joe Payne on Instagram
That Joe Payne on Twitter
That Joe Payne on Facebook
That Joe Payne on Spotify
That Joe Payne on Amazon Music
That Joe Payne on Apple Music