Far more than your average livestream show, ‘Renegade Breakdown Live’ is an ultra-stylised, noirish performance film (complete with arthouse-inspired posters). Envisioned as a “laboratory experiment”, the freeform concert was shot and directed by experimental Quebecois filmmaker Denis Côté, who captured French-Canadian techno titan Marie Davidson – formerly a solo producer – and her new band L’Œil Nu’s first-ever performance.
As a horde of lab-coated, face-masked punters enter the performance space, the camera pans to a piano with a skull on top, alongside the artwork of their recent album ‘Renegade Breakdown’ and some-blood red roses. The slow-motion camera shows the 50-strong cast transfixed as Davidson’s bandmates Pierre Guerineau and Asaël R. Robitaille (plus guest drummer Pierre-Luc Clément) let out the roaring opening guitar riffs of the album’s throbbing title track.
Gradually, the crew members (photographers, videographers, lighting technicians, producers, runners, extras) nod their heads and get into the groove; they loosen up further still when the chiming ‘C’est parce que j’m’en fous’ gets underway. Côté really has fun with the cinematography while the mass of cables, stacks of amplifiers and multiple foot pedals lays bare how much gear it takes to put on a production of this scale.
The romantic sway of ‘Si tout n’est pas illusoire’ sees two crew members retreat to the back of the room and kiss passionately, before ‘Center Of The World (Kotti Blues)’ exudes a nostalgic sheen exacerbated by the camera’s close-ups of drumsticks hitting skins and cymbals being lightly tapped as Davidson dances in the foreground. During the stomping strut of ‘Worst Comes To Worst’s and the screeching riffs of ‘Back To Rock’, she becomes the frontwoman she was born to be – one who lets out a demonic howl to the swooning ‘Lead Sister’, before pushing over a mirror. The glass shatters as ominous church bells ring out; it’s like watching an exorcism.
As the band drifts through serene set closer ‘My Love’, the room’s atmosphere is totally reset, glistening mirrorballs shining on the white curtain backdrop. Before the band causally walk off stage to claps and cheers from the eerie masked figures, the song’s final lyric rings poignantly true: “I will love you just the way you are”. With the help of Guerineau, Robitaille and guest drummer Clément, Davidson has found her place in music.