To be a music fan who doesn’t attend or enjoy live shows is an impossible thing, due to the magic that can occur during an unedited performance. A spontaneous cover, a new segue between songs — not to mention watching the joy of playing music wash over an artist’s face — are all reasons to push beyond the recorded tracks of one’s favorite artists and see what they might do in a less conventional environment.
And that’s the cornerstone of French music blog La Blogotheque‘s Take Away shows, which have been capturing artists performing live in random locations since April 2006, anywhere from street corners to abandoned buildings to the Grand Palais in Paris. The emphasis is definitely on indie bands that the cool kids listen to — Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Plants and Animals — but don’t worry, there’s something for all ages. Well, I mean, there’s stuff for the cool kids, and there’s Tom Jones, performing in a New York hotel room.
The range of artists overall is varied, including well-known performers like Amanda Palmer and Sigur Ros, as well as those you might not be as familiar with — one highlight is Tender Forever (the moniker for ukulele-rocking Melanie Valera) wandering through a building under construction with her instrument and playing some pop covers.
The cinematography for these videos puts a heavy emphasis on intimate close-ups over wider shots, which can sometimes feel overly claustrophobic, but the sound recording is top-notch, which is impressive given some of the locations at which they shoot. A rudimentary knowledge of French is helpful for navigating La Blogotheque’s archives, for even though an English version of the site is available, there are a few bugs and broken links.
While a Crackle distribution deal seems to have fizzled out after 15 episodes were released in 2007-2008, the site is still going strong; Current’s Embedded recently partnered with the team to produce the Impromptu end-of-show segments, and Current also has broadcast other Take Away installments on TV.
However, music fans are the real winners — a recent standout example being Phoenix performing 1901 live in front of the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel, if you’re feeling snooty today). It’s a joyful performance in an amazing location, but what makes it so remarkable is watching the faces of those who happened to be passing by. Some of them stop to watch, some walk on — but they do so with just a little more bounce in their step.