Zermatt Unplugged, Friday April 7th, 2017
Zermatt Unplugged is a festival like no other. Set at the foot of Matterhorn it has a charming mountain feeling to it, from the wooden stages and food stalls of the Taste Village, to the hotel terraces where the afternoon concerts are held. The Marquee Stage, is the main stage under a huge tent and hosts the headliner of the day. There are also two stages on the mountains which I didn’t have time to visit.
The particularity of the festival lies on being unplugged and therefore on purely acoustic music.
The Company Of Men, Alex, 12am-1:15pm
The Company of Men is a Swiss supergroup from Lausanne, composed by members of Yellow Teeth, Rosqo, Chewy, and Favez. The band delivers stunning and relaxing folk-rock vibes. There’s harmony between the band members’ voices, their voices beautifully overlapping and backing one another.
They use many different instruments and are very creative, like when they tap on a guitar case with a drumstick, pretty cool effect! One of the band members used to play in the rock band Favez, from which they cover a song. And there is also place for other covers like the one of English rock band Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, where it all shifts from the quiet folk to a speedier rock pace.
Groom, Taste Village, 1:15pm-2:15pm
Groom, aka Justine Salvadori, has a beautiful angel-like voice. She plays soft melodies with her guitar, sometimes accompanied by Yellow Teeth aka Tiziano Zandonella and Théo Quiblier on guitars. She plays with her eyes closed, heightening in this way the magic of her relaxed folk-blues music. The trick is to follow her and see where she leads you.
Marius Bär, 3pm-4:15pm Cervo
The Cervo terrace is packed with people, the sun is shining and hot. And then I hear that almost black voice rising from above, what a voice, it is soulful! And there stands Marius Bär surrounded by his band mates, barefoot, his hair tied in a half tail, playing his guitar and singing beautifully. The vibrations of his voice and music get straight into your heart giving you goosebumps. It’s pretty impressive! He sings in English and talks with the audience in Swiss German.
He plays an amazing cover of Paolo Nutini’s “Iron Sky”, making it his own and allowing the audience to feel his heart while singing it. It is so touching and good it makes me cry! He says Paolo Nutini is an inspiration for him, and I can see how it is, certainly also in the way of conveying emotions in the audience. He plays some more of his songs among which a beautiful ballad accompanied by his band member playing the piano.
He then plays another Paolo Nutini cover, this time it’s “Better Man“, which he plays completely unplugged, with no micros nor amplifiers. A beautiful moment! The walk up hill to Cervo was definitely worth the effort to witness the performance of this talented guy!
Annie Goodchild, Taste village, 4:45pm-5:45pm
Annie Goodchild is an American artist based in Basel and what an incredible voice does she have! Jazzy, funky, her powerful voice wonders up and down into beautiful landscapes. On stage she is accompanied by her band formed by two female vocalists and three musicians on drums, guitar and keyboard. She’s open and friendly on stage, involving the audience.
Ranging between world music and jazz her music is magnetic and makes it impossible to loose focus on it even for a minute!
Ida Mae, Taste Village, 6.45pm-7:45pm
Ida Mae is a young British duo formed by Chris Turpin and Stéphanie Ward, mixing blues, folk and rock. The two members did a tour of the Deep South of the US to better connect with the music they do: Americana. During the tour they wrote songs and prepared their upcoming album. It surely helped, because the atmosphere they convey through their songs is one that brings you right into the sounds of the Deep Sounds with those beautiful 60′ guitars and powerful voices.
The female and male voices intertwine during the songs, with the sounds of the guitar and bells in the background. They also cover the one and only Bruce Springsteen. Ida Mae’s country-folk sounds make you want to dance along to the tunes all night long.
PAOLO NUTINI, Marquee Stage, 8:40pm-10:30pm
The Marquee stage (Zeltbühne in German) is the main stage of the festival and is a sit-only venue. One of the members of the festival staff comes out to present Paolo Nutini saying that he set a new record, his concert being the fastest selling at Zermatt Unplugged in these 10 years of the festival! A set specially conceived for Zermatt Unplugged, entirely acoustic, with no synthesizers or such, just instruments and amplifiers.
Paolo Nutini’s shows are all but boring, his live shows have normally little to do with the way songs are in the albums. His talent lies in improvising and changing the rhythm of the songs while singing and playing them live. His shows are always full of surprises as it’s the one tonight.
He’s not alone on stage but accompanied by his band which counts 12 members, including an orchestra of arches, trumpets, guitars and drums. The intro taken from Paolo Nutini’s last album Caustic Love (2014) is played while he and his band enter the stage. Once the intro is over, the band starts playing “Scream (Funk My Life Up)” joined then by Paolo Nutini’s powerful voice. He makes every beat and every note his own, conveying many emotions on the audience.
He and his band offer the public an outstanding time, the setlist starts with newer songs to then slowly go back to his first songs as well as introducing some brand new material. He plays the beautiful “Looking for Something”, dedicating it to his mother who is in the audience today and who inspired this song to him.
It’s time for something even more unplugged, Paolo Nutini remains alone on stage to play a few acoustic tracks among which the ever stunning “These Streets” which he dedicates to his home, Scotland.
Paolo Nutini, his name obviously sounds more Italian than Scottish and as he tells the audience he gets frequently asked if he speaks Italian, to which he usually replies “un pochino” (a little bit) and rather doing comments about how people are dressed. He chooses this anecdote to introduce the song “Guarda che Luna” by Fred Buscaglione. Which he sings entirely in Italian, and very well by the way!
For “Pencil Full of Lead”, single taken from his second album Sunny Side Up (2009), the entire audience stands up with Paolo Nutini inciting them to do so. He plays a much slower version of the song (at least in the lyrics) but nonetheless as funky and which gets the audience dancing and singing along.
Paolo Nutini sips on his whisky from time to time, recounting anecdotes to the audience and he is very friendly. I can’t grasp everything he says. But when he sings, oh when he sings it is just mind-blowing and perfect. Nobody sings the way he does.
When he plays the introductory notes of “Iron Sky”, screams of excitement rise from the audience, including mine. His orchestra joins in, building up the sound and preparing the path for him to start singing. There are no words to describe how it feels to hear “Iron Sky” live. It is so intense and overwhelmingly beautiful that it makes you cry. Paolo Nutini definitely gives his best for this song singing his lungs out. He and his band then leave the stage leaving the audience to clap hands and scream for them to come back.
They come back for an encore, playing among other songs, stunning acoustic versions of “Candy” and “Someone Like You”, with the public singing along to them and swinging hands and lighters in the air.
It all ends beautifully after nearly 2 hours of music entangled with emotions, with a slow acoustic version of “Last Request”, taken from his first album These Streets (2006). The response of the public is massive, clapping, screaming, putting the hands together forming a heart. And Paolo Nutini is clapping as well, for his band and for the audience!
Paolo Nutini charmed Zermatt Unplugged and went right to the core of what this festival represents: acoustic music and a flow of emotions conveyed with it.
The Temper Trap, The Alex, 10:45pm-11:50pm
The four Australian rockers of The Temper Trap conceived an acoustic show especially thought for the occasion. Their usual electric guitars riffs are replaced by acoustic guitars. Unusual for a rock band, they sit on chairs to play the acoustic set. They are friendly and joke with the audience.
They play songs they haven’t played in years as well as one that they unveil live for the first time. The singer’s voice is charming, at times more like a falsetto it makes its way through the drums beats and the acoustic riffs. The last song they play, “Sweet Disposition”, is their most famous one, and for it they keep a more rock pace. An amazing acoustic set which shows that also a rock band can nail it and get straight to your heart in a different way than usual!
An outstanding first visit at Zermatt Unplugged for me, which definitely makes me want to come back next year! This festival as well as its location, decor and artists invited are magic.
So save the date: 10-14 April 2018 😉