She came fourth at the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. Afterwards City lights made its way to many European music charts and Blanche even won the European Border Breakers Award. Then it got silent, for more than a year and a half. Until late November 2018, when she kicked off her tour in Paradiso, Amsterdam. Blanche is back, but isn’t it too late?
Fifty? Sixty? That’s about the amount of people gathered in the small Paradiso concert hall. They have spread all around the room, only the half circle in front of the stage remains empty. The danger zone. Almost as to protect the fragile girl we remember from 2017. Instead of the uncomfortable dress she wore back then, she now wears a dark green top decorated with sparkles, high waisted jeans and a pair of grubby sneakers. In the first few lines of the opening song Empires, she seems to reflect on the tumultuous past few years. Everything we are / hanging in fear / it’s a kind of fever, for people / as strong as we are.
Blanche seems focused and severe. In the second song of the evening she reveals some of her vulnerabilities to the Paradiso audience. Should I take any wrong turn? / any more time, should I?/ Did I get any more words? / Will it get worse this time? In three Lykke Li-like minutes she sings about wandering through life and surrendering to – well, to what exactly? The answer is never given, but we don’t mind. With bated breath we listen to the quick glimpse into Blanches mirror – it’s quiet enough to hear every ice cube tingle in every plastic cup.
After a few new songs Soon is played. One line stands out. In a mess of light, of a thousand recalls. And there it is. For the first time this evening, a smile appears on Blanches face when she revisits an old Eurovision trademark of hers: flicking her fingers. Then, and only then, we know for sure that she will bend, not break. All alone in the danger zone.
“Do you want us to play City lights?” she asks doubtfully. The question is to be expected because of the chance this whole performance will be judged based on this one song. There seem to be doubts, even a little muttering on stage. Then the small band (drums, piano) starts. It all sounds different than in 2017; sturdier, bolder.
The performance is convincing. And that raises a big question. Why has it taken Blanche so long? It’s a question we have to ask the Wallonian broadcasting company RBTF. And maybe also the Flemish VRT. Why wasn’t there a plan for Blanche to go on tour immediately after she had taken the stage at Eurovision and had made herself known to Europe? Instead of all that we got silence. There was no new song, no album, no tour. Wouldn’t it have been better to follow the Dutch example: Anouk, The Common Linnets and Waylon all started their European career at Eurovision thanks to a premeditated strategy. Now perhaps the momentum for Blanche is gone. How long does an audience stay loyal?
The setting is small, the setlist is limited, but Blanches performance is mature and balanced. She is a singer with her mind set on a bright musical future. Her songs are modern and similar to those of bands like London Grammar, Lykke Li, Lorde and Daughter – from which Blanche covers the song Youth. Although the ambiance feels intimate, Indie like, at the end we are left with the feeling we have not seen all of Blanche. There is still some potential to be discovered, some development to go through. Blanche is a diamond in the rough, one that isn’t fully cut yet.