THE GAZETTE july 30th, 2000

Les Rita rocks !

Cheryl Hnatiuk

Quirky French pop icons just like to have fun

"You're known for being rather provocative in your live shows," said a reporter, setting up a question during yesterday's press conference by French pop icons Les Rita Mitsouko. Before she could continue, singer Catherine Ringer interrupted, roaring into her microphone.

"Aaaaaargh!"

It was, indeed, a provocative moment, and it salvaged an otherwise deadly dull Q&A session - Ringer and her husband, Frederic Chichin, who form the core of Les Rita, are known for their aversion to interviews.

They are also known as one of the most genuinely delightful and spontaneous groups in the often stuffy world of French rock. Even more so back in 1984, when the pair broke into France's pop consciousness with a song called Marcia Baïla.

More than 15 years later, they can still comprise a highlight of an all-French music festival like les FrancoFolies. Last night's gig at Metropolis sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale and the last tickets for tonight's follow-up at the Olympia Theatre were snapped up in the past few days.

This is a band that people love, not for its touching renditions of sentimental classics but for its quirks. Ringer led the way with her eccentric antics last night, bounding about the stage. She danced, she fought, she frolicked, she laughed and she posed.

It's the result of not taking anything too seriously, except perhaps having fun - that is Ringer's priority. It is the band's mandate. It is what music is about for Ringer and Chichin, likewise their fans.

When they played Les Histoires d'A, off 1986's the No Comprendo, the room erupted in full singalong. Not just for the chorus, or the more familiar bits, but the entire song, enthusiastically, without prompting, and with hands waving in the air.

So high was the excitement level that the audience couldn't contain itself when Ringer introduced a tricky call-and-response, asking only the people who weren't having a good time to scream. She explained the concept repeatedly, but each time the room broke into cheers.

Their seventh album is called Cool Frenesie, and the title is apt. Even in their mid-40s, with three kids and a career nearing the two-decade mark, Ringer and Chichin are still tres cool - and can still muster a respectable frenzy.

- Les Rita Mitsouko perform again tonight at the Olympia Theatre as part of Les FrancoFolies. The show is sold out.

T'CHA DUNLEVY (Montréal)