While Los Angeles audiences can be lame at shows, particularly those which demand participation, this was a rapturous crowd.
The Regent Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
As fate would have it, L’Impératrice marked my second Francophone show at the Regent Theatre, the first being a La Femme show three years ago that threw me into the best mosh pit I’ve experienced outside of a Boston DIY basement. The venue’s sloped standing section and impeccable booking ranges from today’s finest alongside bonafide legends, and I count among my best memories there a life-changing FKA Twigs show in 2014.
The Undercover Dream Lovers opened for L’Impératrice, bringing groovy indie rock with slightly psychedelic vibes to set the mood for the headliner’s upbeat French touch. Lead singer Matt Koenig sang in a beautiful tenor, carried by bouncy synths and guitar riffs. Catchy and accessible, their music made me extra aware that summer lies just around the corner (if the June Gloom ever wears off).
The six members of L’Impératrice (“the Empress”) dressed in white jumpsuits with blue accents. Each member pulled their weight on more than one instrument. Lead singer Flore Benguigui alternated between vocals, synths and a pair of maracas. Though they hit their forte on percussion, drummer Tom Daveau played the bass with such aplomb and charisma I mistakenly thought he was the main bassist.
Charming and dorky at the same time, bassist David Gaugué and guitarist David Trocellier often squared up, riffing on each other’s talent. From behind their synths and keyboards, founder Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon gave off just as much enthusiasm. Not a single one of them looked anything less than thrilled by the turnout, which was equally thrilled to see them.
While Los Angeles audiences can be lame at shows, particularly those which demand participation, this was a rapturous crowd. L’Impératrice fans clearly came to enjoy themselves, bouncing along to the band’s funky, disco jam sesh, easing Benguigui’s initial concerns about a stationary audience.
“I was told LA crowds don’t dance,” she said near the beginning, and thankfully the crowd proved her wrong.
To get the crowd moving, they pulled largely from their latest album, Matahari, a smooth, disco-infused album where the focus lays much less on vocals and more so on the instrumentation. That said, the venue could have turned up Benguigui’s mic just a little bit, her soft voice often drowned out by the waves of sound the band produces.
Even still, L’Impératrice sounded phenomenal. New tracks such as “Ma Starlight” and “Matahari,” the latter featuring an excellent solo from Trocellier, fit well with their older material, which they sampled from liberally. Tracks like “La Lune” and “1998” hailed from past eras yet drew an equal amount of joy from the audience. Their polish stemmed from de Boisseguin’s desire to mature and hone their sound over a period of six years, a decision that certainly paid off. When your act delivers Donna Summer disco mixed with Daft Punk sensibility, you know you’re doing something right.
By the show’s end, finishing off with another old cut “Aquadanse,” Benguigui was nearly moved to tears by LA’s response to their music.
“I’m still dreaming of you,” we sang along with her, and I know for a fact L’Impératrice stayed in many minds long after this exemplary performance. At least, they’re still in mine.