Francois & The Atlas Mountains

Francois & The Atlas Mountains


On the day the UK formally notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU, Manchester is out in force at Soup Kitchen for Frenchman François Marry’s show with his pop band Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains. Like for many of us, the events of the day have stirred up some emotions in Marry, as expressed by his spoken introduction to the show, but, he says, tonight is all about having fun.

The fun starts without delay as Marry, on lead vocals and lead guitar, indulges with the bass player in some synchronised stage moves during the danceable ‘Grand Dérèglement’. Audience faces in front of me are mostly hidden from view, but I can tell that everyone witnessing this amusing spectacle is smiling, perhaps being reminded like me of some of Paul Simon and Chevy Chase’s antics in the ‘You Can Call Me Al’ video. The guys bring a cute joy to the performance, pulling off their rehearsed moves entirely convincingly thanks to their polite humour and self-assuredness.

The four-piece, signed to Domino, has just kicked off a UK/France/Belgium tour in support of this month’s new record, Solide Mirage. There can’t be too many musicians touring the UK with a record sung entirely in a language other than English, and that to me is such a refreshing aspect to this band. A female voice towards the front of the crowd compliments Marry in French on the fetching navy-blue and patterned pyjamas he is wearing.

The bright, guitar-led rhythms of the political ‘Apocalypse à Ipsos’ sound evocative of the Sahara Desert, yet the patriotic lyrics focus on France and family. Visibly there is a great fraternité on stage that can come only from living in each other’s pockets in recording studios and hotels and on the road. ‘1982’ is dedicated to a Rachel in the audience and to anyone born in that particular year, and it sounds from the cheers like there are more than one or two. The impact of the Frànçois-goes-punk of ‘Bête Morcelée’, though, is lessened somewhat this evening as I find myself wishing for more guitar in the mix.

Marry switches occasionally between his Fender and a Les Paul, and sometimes the bass guitar is absent for a song or two, replaced by an electronic drum kit to double up on the beats in combination with the drummer. The gig ends in the crescendo of a superlative yet brief drum solo at the conclusion of ‘Les Plus Beaux’. There is to be no encore, but it feels better that way – not because of a second-rate show but because the band left the stage so elated in that moment and with a love buzz from the crowd that it might understandably want to savour as its one enduring memory of Manchester and Soup Kitchen.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.