Steve Von Till at Le Petit BainSupport: Innerwoud
August 8, 2023 at Le Petit Bain
Tuesday turned to evening in Paris’ thirteenth arrondissement and the setting sun set the stage for a streetlit view of the still dormant Seine River. The floating Petit Bain stood still, sailing along the bank, greeting its polite guest inside for an intimate night of solemn reflection amongst the waves. A peaceful, yet potent stillness occupied the room as the crew made their final preparations for tonight’s show. Perhaps most peculiar was the layout of folding chairs, lined up as if to greet the faithfully devoted to mass.
Under dimmed lights and a serene mood, we welcomed Pieter-Jan Van Assche to the stage. The Belgian musician wielded his double bass with the firm, authoritative grip of a seasoned master, carving each layer of his rich soundscapes stroke by stroke, stacked by means of a looper pedal. Like a craftsman of esoteric tradition, Innerwoud conjured up brooding pieces of wordless poetry in a majestic waltz between the double bass and its player. Though a discrete snap of a camera shutter or the mere lifting of a shoe sole off the venue’s tacky floor could be heard, not a sound dared to interrupt the room’s collective trance-like state.
Lingering pieces of the Belgian bassist’s spellbinding performance echoed silently within the minds of its quiet audience, bridging the gap between the opening and latter part of the billing during the short intermission. Steve Von Till stepped to the stage, introducing his band and thanking his fans before settling into the set opener with ‘Dream of Trees’.
The night’s program would largely be devoted to 2020’s No Wilderness Deep Enough, played in its entirety with a generous side serving of A Life unto Itself and complemented with a couple of older cuts and some readings from his poetry book Harvestman. The church-like stillness carried on for the next eighty minutes, governed by Von Till’s deep, gravelly voice. The pristine live mix and the band’s intense focus on soft, meticulous gestures emphasized and heightened the sense of sheer precision underlying each heartfelt part of the majestic whole.
A masterful storyteller, Von Till held his audience in place despite a relatively slow-paced, low-key set, switching between instruments enough to keep the stage show lively. With anchors lifted, Von Till’s ensemble led Le Petit Bain deep into the shoreless distance, where one’s faced with the anechoic chambers within our mind. The meditative flow-state carried on, building momentum and culminating in a mighty communion of the elements on the grand finale ‘Known but not Named’, during which the entire venue began to sway under the tumultuous nocturnal tides.
The river calmed back down as soon as the set concluded and Steve Von Till stepped off the stage with a formal bow to the crowd, under the acclamations of cheerful souls having just returned to shore. Though his group’s future remains largely uncertain, Von Till’s live presence continues to command the merits of a true artist destined to conquer new frontiers.