BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet. At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Thursday, February 15.
Reviewed by Sheyla Molho
What a wonderful evening this was to spend on the bayou. BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet played all night as though they were speaking their own language. And in fact, they were. Their Cajun-English is a dialect of French, and not the French language taught in schools. “Is this Mardi Gras for y’all?” Doucet asked as the crowd laughed and cheered. What a concept — Mardi Gras without drinks!
The show began with “Me and Dennis McGee,” which is about a pioneer of the Cajun fiddle. There was an Irish influence to the tune, mixed in with modern rock and the resonating echo of a triangle, all dominated by Doucet’s violin. Between songs Doucet kept the audience amused with entertaining history lessons, jokes filled with good humor, and stories of the band’s origins. BeauSoleil is proud of its origins, even if there is a little black humor in there, too.
Often the hardest thing for a band to do during a show is engage the audience, but with music as enchanting as this, and a leader like Doucet, it seemed easy. For example, take Doucet’s casual comparison of California to Louisiana. He joked that we Californians shouldn’t laugh at Louisiana, because we will eventually fall into the water too. Simple, but funny.
It wasn’t all comedy all night, as the band also incorporated down-tempo songs into the show. “J᾽aimerai Connaître,” which can be translated to “I would have liked to know you,” was one such piece that Doucet sang by going back and forth from French to English. These romantic songs have their roots in France, but with a whole lot of Cajun spice mixed in.
BeauSoleil means “beautiful sun,” and this band really did produce some sunshine in the form of Cajun rhythm. There may not have been a dance floor in Campbell Hall, but there was plenty of toe tapping going on. For that night, my left foot had a life of its own.