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We even forgot the smell of sweat, breath mingled with Portuguese beer, skin brushing against skin in an overheated hall, the sub-basses smashing against other sub-basses, the murmur of the lake, the hamburgers and sushi, the fear of missing something, climbing the stairs four by four, always missing the beginning, no covering our mouths with a mask and Kendrick, Kendrick who wanders the Avenue Claude Nobs, not looking like much with his tight little braids, he decided this summer to leave Los Angeles and emerge from lockdown in Montreux – his brother in arms, the saxophonist Terrace Martin, made him recall the yellow awnings of the Palace, of the slow and calm. So, they took a jet. To flee this cursed summer where you cannot breathe.
“Kendrick Lamar said: “I’m coming, but I’m playing in the club and I don’t want to be announced”.”
Kendrick Lamar said: “I’m coming, but I’m playing in the club and I don’t want to be announced”. This is the only concert of this cancelled 54th edition. On social networks, the festival announced a special night with 300 available tickets without further elaboration. The idle summer visitors booked. They arrive in the evening in small masked bundles, their hands and minds full of alcohol, full of euphoria for something we are no longer used to: being together. Mathieu Jaton sweats, he announces in two languages that the night is to be sensational, he introduces Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin who launch into such a poignant version of “Impressions”, a distorted mix of binary and street rap, that you would think this music was written yesterday.
“Glasper, in a dark hoodie, then launches a “Maiden Voyage” whose introductory chords he spins at length.”
Glasper, in a dark hoodie, then launches a “Maiden Voyage” whose introductory chords he spins at length. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is my master and the composer of this classic that I learned when I was 10 years old in Texas, courtesy of my mother: Herbie Hancock.” He’s 80 years old, his hair is almost bluish black, he’s surrounded by electric toys; they jam to “Rock It”, jazz shamelessly embracing hip-hop, mingling their antibodies. No one is afraid any more, and when Kendrick Lamar finally makes his entrance, he looks just like Coltrane and no one is surprised. It’s a night of overkill, conjuring and exorcism.
“At one point, Kendrick reads a poem written in a breath. He speaks of a burning ground, about a man who clearly declares that he is no longer breathing and is not heard. He talks about a suffocated country and a world where masks will eventually fall off.”
At one point, Kendrick reads a poem written in a breath. He speaks of a burning ground, about a man who clearly declares that he is no longer breathing and is not heard. He talks about a suffocated country and a world where masks will eventually fall off. It’s funny, we had almost forgotten, in this pandemic that deprives us of musicians, to what extent their art is not a surplus of soul or a decoration; it is the very substance of our peaceful coexistence. When Kendrick raises his fist, Montreux is nothing more than a thick silence. He does not speak to us of a distant land, but of here and now. One breath.
Arnaud Robert works, among others, with Le Temps and RTS.