Erika Stucky Bubbles and Bands’ tour @Pully City Club, 15th of March 2013

Erika Stucky_2Erika Stucky has been nicely described as “a Swiss post-modern jazz singer and yodeller”. My version would be “an anarchic Heidi sight & sound experimentalist with a spunky, punky, funky performance art ethic”. Truly a national treasure who sticks out like a welcome sore thumb in a country only too well-known for quiet, order, efficiency, occasional dullness and no toilet flushing after 10pm. I left the concert last Friday night joyfully dazed and confused and wishing she were my next-door neighbour. Give Erika the chance for referendum and dullness would be effectively banned from the Swiss idiom.

Accompanied by great talent on the drums (Lucas Niggli) and tuba (Marc Unternährer) and a bit of fiddling on the lights, Erika turned the comfy Pully City Club into a mad powerhouse of sound, sights, textures and sensations. The musical content was made up of of random songs heard whilst on the road touring, a kind of musical diary that got played around with on the tour bus and dressing rooms. But do not mistake this as night of karaoke standards.

It’s a loose and baggy monster of interpretation where Donovan (“Sunshine Superman”), The Beatles (“Helter Skelter”) and The Stones (“Gimme Shelter”) give way to Stucky’s vocal range, musical styles and provocational ways. Her delivery varies from minimal to positively orchestral, gentle to deranged, soulful, bluesy hoochie-coochie to African chanting, Japanese scatting, or was it Swiss German?…. lordy, there were so many languages… She has able pipes and she knows how to use them, skillfully creating a constantly fluctuating sense of light and shade, one minute lulling you into a safe muscial comfort zone to then have you climbing out of your skin. Never has the occasionally annoying been so engaging.

Visually too, it’s more than a cosy, quirky circus act. The backdrop aided by clever lighting tricks creates multiple Erikas: little, looming, friendly, scary. Snippets of Scorsese-style home movies accompany the music; we were spared the famous baby-tossing sequence that caused outrage in Italy, but were subjected to the blood-curdling cup of coffee which cutesy Madame overfloods with sugar and proceeds to sip cautiously, tortuously as if being held at gunpoint.

Interaction with the audience is warm and delightful, (oh the joy tales of hanging out with Japanese bonadage ladies in Norway), it showcases her polyglotism – though never a show off – and informs us that Erika is over 50 and a recent mum. Information which, to my mind, adds to her general boundary-expanding charismatic ways. Here’s a woman who can weave one song out of two (The Beatles’ “Revolver” and Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma”), kick ass into Eminem’s Lose Yourself, create crazy soundscapes out of playing the accordion, banging a shovel and sampling herself yodelling live AND be totally sexy with it.

“When you come to see me live, you pay to be surprised” she modestly quips near the end of her show. Damn right in bold, italics and underlined. Stucky tells us that the gig has to finish bang on 10pm because of strict anti-noise laws, “eh, oui, c’est bien la Suisse” shouts out a member of the audience. But no-one left the auditorium unhappy with Swiss rules and regulations, clearly one and a half hours of Bubbles and Bangs had filled us with enough anarchic musical vibes to start our own personal revolution.

Erika Stucky (vocals, accordion, sampler, light show and anything else she could get her hands on), Lucas Niggli (drums), Marc Unternährer (tuba).

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