Moullinex, live at Culturgest

After more than a year without live music, I have to say I have been doing my best to make up for lost time. And so, shortly after my trip to The Jazz Café to witness Jackson Mathod’s first live performance, I found myself in Lisbon, this time for Moullinex’s live debut of his latest work, Requiem for Empathy. As I arrived with the gang at Culturgest and watched people gathering in small groups in the space between the outside of the venue and the little bar across the street – you know, the road [Author’s note: gotta love Portugal] – I heard glasses clinking and strangers’ voices filling the air discussing anything and everything, from the artist we were all there to see to the latest predictions for the Euro 2020 winner. You could feel the buzz in the air, the excitement of live music flowing through everyone. And for a moment there, it really did feel like “normal” was back.

But, as we all know and as corona virus is unfortunately constantly remining us, “normal” isn’t back just yet. Masks on, no drinks, seated for the entire performance, one seat apart from everyone – the whole nine yards. Basically, a big slap in the face saying “no dancing” [Author’s note: if you do want to dance in these dark times, as we all should, check out AS x House Classics for a hearty dose of very danceable tunes]. But we weren’t going to let this get in the way – armed with the best vibe possible, we entered the venue, looked for our designated seats and began discussing what to expect from the Lisbon-based DJ, musician and producer’s latest work. Not sure what was said at the moment, but spoiler alert – it topped all expectations.

4 people enter the stage, but we’ll get to the introductions later. It is also too dark at this point to distinguish little more than the shades of the 4 musicians, at least from where I was standing – or sitting, in this case. The show kicks without a word, jumping into what you could call an intro weirdly apt to the name of the album – while amazing visuals display the title Requiem for Empathy, the 4 musicians make the most use of all the keyboards available on stage (and there were many). It is a very different project from his previous works, the one that Moullinex is presenting us, as it explores a much more raw sound, conducted mainly by synthesizers and acoustic and electronic drums.

A great rendition of Dream On follows, taking us back to the more familiar territory of old school Moullinex. It is at this point that Luis Clara Gomes [Author’s note: you didn’t really think he was called Moullinex, right?] addresses the crowd for the first time. “You look so beautiful from here” – given that all anyone in his position can see is a bunch of masked people sitting one seat apart from each other, we all know he is just being nice. Nice gesture, nonetheless, one that gathers a thunderous applause from us, the “beautiful” crowd.  A brief interlude follows, where once again they make the most (and best) use of the synths and keyboards on stage, with another great combo of acoustic and electronic drums, which quickly escalates into a Chemical Brothers’ frenzy – it is starting to become impossible to keep seated, I might add. Well, turns out that brief interlude is in fact Inner Child, which counts with GPU Panic on vocals, one of the keyboardists on stage. At this point more than half of the room is standing up, yourself included. A thunderous applause mid track, while our heroes refill for water before plunging into an amazing finale, with an epic crescendo that feeds the crowd everything we have been missing these last months – dancing under some good electronic music.

“Good evening Lisbon! We have been waiting for this moment for a long time!” Luis excitedly announces. “The people who have already stood up, they have done the right thing. We are together in the same physical place, and if I was on your side I would probably be doing the same”. Wise words from a wise man – no point in lying, we all know he would indeed be doing the same [Author’s note: it’s his music after all]. “I am grateful to be sharing this with you.” Speaking of sharing, he then invites Afonso Cabral to share the stage with him, who arguably sports a better beard than mine – up for debate. What isn’t up for debate are his vocal capabilities, which are light-years ahead of mine. “What an amazing voice this chap has” I found myself thinking as I heard Hey Bo for the first time [Author’s note: never have I ever used the word “chap” in my life].

From the 3 others on stage – Guilherme Tomé Ribeiro (aka GPU Panic) and Guilherme Salgueiro on the keyboards and Pedro Sousa in the drums – to the countless guest artists that appear on the record, you can see that despite being a Moullinex project from beginning to end, Requiem for Empathy is the result of the participation and craft of several other people. Case in point, the next song, where the band is joined by Portuguese and Cape Verdean superstar Sara Tavares to perform Minina di Ceu. Unfortunately, she joins via video as she was playing in Bulgaria that same night, but on this day and age who isn’t used to Zoom calls? Everyone stands up once again, this time having been “unofficially” authorized by Moullinex himself to do so. Ven, a collaboration with Spanish-speaking Ekstra Bonus, is a great follow up to bring the pace a bit down following another Chemical Brothers’ moment – that’s the odd thing about Moullinex’s music, it’s dancefloor music that you can still be introspective about.

“My next guest is someone I have been working with for a long time, but we haven’t recorded anything yet. I am glad we waited for the right time” announces Luis, before Selma Uamusse joins him on stage. She returns the compliments received, thanking Luis for the fact that he got us all dancing tonight – “what this means is that all of you should dance”, she says. As Ngoma Nwana starts, a powerful tune which makes the most of her vocal powerhouse and the Moullinex trademark sound, and she begins dancing to lead the way, I hear someone behind me commenting “I want her pants”, and I can see why – the pants are hypnotizing, full of glitter and sparkle and even I wondered if I could ever pull something like that off [Author’s note: I most definitely couldn’t]. Luis once again addresses us, this time to explain that he invited Gui (the GPU Panic one, not the other), to play guitar with him 5 years before. “As you can see, I’ve ruined his life – he no longer plays the guitar” he says, leading to laughter all around as we realize the only thing Gui doesn’t have surrounding him is a guitar. After a lot of praise and compliments going both ways, they play their first collaboration together, Painting by Numbers – what a tune.

They land the closing with BREAK/OUT/BREAK – a perfect 10 out of 10, with everyone back on their feet roaring with excitement. I must have done more cardio on this concert than during the entire period of lockdown, but props to the drummer – he hasn’t stopped for a second since the show started. Great stamina dude. It is at this moment that the 4 musicians come back for the encore. Well, not really coming back – they never left the stage. “Imagine we did, we are on a time budget”, announces Luis, before jumping into an extraordinary rendition of Flora, another nostalgic pearl from his earlier days that puts everyone jumping from their seats and dancing again – a true party, like in the good old days. They still try to voice out some final comments and thanks, but we can’t hear them – with a thunderous applause all around the venue, the noise is just too loud. Boy, did I miss this.