It’s the story of a man who didn’t speak, who kept a kind of conquering silence around him, who sang for himself. It’s the story of a soul singer who delivers from the stage, but who that day brought the complete opposite: an intimate, reserved performance.
Thursday night, Aloe Blacc played at the Trabendo. He had projectors, he had a mic on one foot, a platform for the battery. The sound was good, the audience riled up, guys filming with their iPhones in the first row. All for a show, and a show was had. Aloe was wearing a vintage leather vest, bellbottoms, a small cap. He stepped up his dancing, teased the crowd, improvised medleys at the end of songs, danced, shouted, and the crowd responded. All confirming what we had stated two Sundays before: Aloe Blacc plays for the audience. He needs them. We’d had a different Aloe. Still classy, but of a silent class.
It was a grey Sunday, but we had recorded a beautiful, stripped down version of his song ‘I Need a Dollar’, accompanied by finger snaps and growls, in the restaurant of the Comptoir Général. Up to this point, Aloe had barely said a word, standing tall and silent, scanning what was happening around him like a general silently counting his fortune and his conquests. And when he sang, he sang for himself. No showboating, just a smile to show his happiness. Two songs, a brunch, and we left.
In the métro, we asked him to play a song. He refused: there weren’t enough people. We were on line 5 and we had to find a place with a guaranteed audience, on a nasty Sunday. This ended up being the corridor in the St-Michel station.
Aloe still wasn’t speaking, and, without saying anything to anyone, he distanced himself from his musicians, leaving them looking like buskers with a guitar case at their feet. He was on the other side. Hands in his pockets, leaning against a corner of the wall, he sang without drawing attention to it, like he had picked up an overheard tune and carried it along. A few tourists took the time to understand that they’d heard this song before, on the street and in the garden. Once the song was finished, his hands stayed in his pocket, he said nothing. And a few levels up, outside, in front of a closed bookstore, he played the same game to an audience of passerby wishing for the end of the downpour – the man who
Translated by Tara Dominguez