at a glance
Patrick Mercier, singer-songwriter, plays 1970s era folk rock at The FCC Phnom Penh on Saturday July 17th. Show starts at 7 p.m. No cover.
Patrick Mercier, the singer-songwriter who wowed crowds at the Chinese House in May with a three-hour tribute to Leonard Cohen, will perform at The FCC Phnom Penh on July 17.
A well-established fixture in the capital’s music scene, Mercier expects to play his more traditional repertoire of 1970s era folk music and kindred songs when he takes to The FCC stage.
“I feel the audience,” he says of his semi-improvisational style and how he arrives at the songs he plays. “The connection with the audience is so important. There is a special energy playing in front of a crowd.”
Mercier’s music tends toward the irreverent and the emotional. Born in 1965 in Rennes, France, Mercier was influenced at a young age in the early 1970s by the protest songs and anti-war ballads that were popular in those days.
Along with standards from his day, Mercier also plays more contemporary styles. But in the meandering narratives of his set lists, his innate, child-of-the-70s irreverence remains steadfast.
He plays, for example, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” a stirring anti-war ballad about the Battle of Gallipoli written by Scottish singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.
“I am very touched by this song,” he says. “When I sing that last verse, it almost makes me cry.”
He also does “The Town I Loved So Well” by acclaimed Irish composer Phil Coulter. The song recounts Coulter’s childhood in idyllic Derry, Northern Ireland, and the town’s subsequent dissent into chaos during three decades of sectarian violence known collectively as The Troubles.
For many natives of Northern Ireland, Coulter’s lyrics evoke a national anthem-like effect, and the songs’ anti-British undertones are unmistakable.
Mercier “loves” The Dixie Chicks, and he counts Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Waits as some of his greatest influences.
And, of course, Leonard Cohen.
“Ah, yes, him,” he says, letting the name roll around in his head like a vintage single malt. “The greatest poet of Canada.”
Mercier’s first exposure to the internationally renowned poet came as a child during a summer holiday travelling around the beautiful French countryside with his parents. “The Partisan,” he says, “a song in honor of the French resistance against Nazi Germany.”
Just 10 years old, Mercier could hardly comprehend the gravity of the song, much less its English lyrics. But something in the music captivated his young heart, and in no small way that song compelled him toward a lifelong affair with the six-string.
“As I got older, and as I could start to understand what the song was about, my interest in Leonard Cohen only grew.”
The kinship with Cohen continues to this day. In May, Mercier performed a tribute concert to Cohen at The Chinese House.
“That was an amazing night,” he said. “There was a huge storm that started about 30 minutes into the show. There were a few people there. But most of them, they came through the wind and the rain to hear this music. By the end, place was completely full. I played for nearly three hours.”
It’s a mood Mercier hopes to recapture when he plays The FCC.
Mercier plays The FCC Phnom Penh July 17. The show starts at 7 p.m.