P art of what makes Parisian pop combo Tahiti 80's debut disc, Puzzle, such a delight are instrumentation and melodies that are so delicate that a strong breeze might blow them away.
So it was clear from the start that the quartet faced a challenge at Lee's Palace Wednesday -- how to recreate the house-of-cards ambience of the record in a drafty rock club without morphing into some kind of guitar-guided rock squad. It was tricky, but Tahiti 80 gave it a good shot.
Lead singer/guitarist Xavier Boyer's English has improved noticeably since the recording was completed, but it's hard to belt when you're singing about yellow butterflies. So while Boyer's breathless lyrical valentines came across brilliantly up front, they barely reached the back bar.
The addition of trumpet, percussion and lots of keyboards put some meat on the bones of the more fragile ballads, but really the show belonged to bassist Pedro Resende.
A fuzzy, lumbering bear of a man in a Hawaiian shirt that screamed two decibels louder than Boyer, Resende presented himself almost as a sight gag, throwing his girth around stage right and providing a sharp physical counterpoint to the group's chiselled singer.
With his sly grin, Resende looked like a cat among pigeons, and you just knew if anyone were to mischievously let one rip on the tour bus, it'd be him.
Still, sensing economy might be the way to go, Tahiti 80 played for about an hour, returned for a quickie encore, then called it a night.
At that, show attendee and former 13 Engines singer/guitarist John Critchley agreed that Tahiti 80's charms are perhaps best enjoyed over cognac in the comfort of one's favourite easy chair. Then, before turning on his heel, Critchley leaned in conspiratorially to offer sage advice from the very soul of a musician who's been on the other side of an audience.
"Never trust a band with a number in its name." Heh, heh. Gotcha.
TAHITI 80, at Lee's Palace, September 13. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 300. Rating: NNN