Words by Bethany Walsh
The latter days of September see darkness creeping upon us ever sooner, and whilst this turn of season may be unwelcomed by many, the early dusk and slight chill in the air provided the perfect atmosphere for an evening with Yann Tiersen at Manchester Cathedral; whose latest album Infinity is very much embedded within the elements of nature which inspired it.
Brooklyn beers in hand, the crowd huddle together in the stone-pillared arena, anticipation growing as the lights dim and the silhouette of Tiersen emerges amongst other shadowy figures. A single light beams from center stage, everything is set to take off as Tiersen takes his place at the piano.
From Iceland, work on the album took Tiersen back home to the island of Ushant off the coast of Brittany, on a roadtrip through Cornwall and Devon and to the Faroe Islands. We hear lyrics in Breton, Faroese and Icelandic as the audience is whirled through the landscapes from which Tiersen’s latest creation was conceived. The crowd is conducted along with the music, swaying in accordance to the continual shifts in rhythm and clattering layers of sound, almost as though the Cathedral were a vessel travelling through tumultuous tides. Title track ‘Infinity’ is sparse and ethereal, capturing the audience’s intrigue. ‘Ar Maen Bihan’ and ‘Gronjord’ bring a darker edge to the set, but Tiersen doesn’t linger in this mood for long, with ‘Lights’ parting the clouds with its triumphant crescendo.
Tiersen’s current tour features a line-up of four other multi-instrumentalists who play in ever-shifting combinations. From song to song, you might hear piano, glockenspiel, xylophone, guitars, mandolin, violin, bells, and percussion, with textures ranging from minimalist to four-part vocal harmony layered over opulently intertwined instrumental lines. The transitions are seamless; a strong attraction is seeing and hearing what will come next; with the plethora of instruments busying the stage. Tiersen’s versatility is particularly commendable, from his bow-fraying segments on the violin to the playful use of a melodica, he is the jack-of-all trades in this musical circus. The sound swirls and swells in the cavernous space of the Cathedral, whose acoustics complemented the reverb heavy production of the album.
The setlist features almost exclusively features songs from the new LP, although a surprise from Tiersen’s acclaimed Amelie soundtrack induced gasps of excitement from the audience on its opening notes on the melodica. He returned alone to the stage alone for the encore, with a solo piece at the piano bringing calm after the storm.