Saturday, Feb. 6

What a difference a tour makes! Saturday's show marked Marianne Dissard's triumphant return from six weeks of performing throughout Europe and New Zealand. Of course, it was a thrill to cover so much ground with her music, and, as Dissard said, "It was funny for all of us!"

But it had to be even more rewarding just to learn how good her songs can really sound. The crowd gathered in the club's cabaret setting got the benefit.

Musicians often grow into their songs the more they perform them, but Dissard is a special case. She had been performing the songs on her 2008 full-length L'entredeaux sporadically since she first began performing as a singer in 2006. Calexico's Joey Burns co-wrote and produced the songs, and Dissard always found talented backing in different configurations, large and small. But the songs often changed with the players.

The just-finished tour was the first chance that any one group of musicians had to truly gel around and fully experiment with these songs. The result on Saturday was tight, artfully arranged and often enchanting renditions, most especially in the tastefully sparse touches of Brian Lopez' goosebump-inducing vocal harmony on "Cayenne" and "Sans-Façon."

Lopez, best known for his rock band Mostly Bears, played guitar and provided vocal color on the tour. Sergio Mendoza, leader and composer for the neo-mambo Y La Orkesta and sometime keyboard player for Calexico, played drums, keyboards and accordion. TAMMIES 2008 Best Bassist winner Geoffrey Hidalgo rounded out the core of the touring combo. All three supported Dissard at Congress, augmented by Marco Rosano on accordion, and the DJ known as French Tourist on turntable, theremin and effects.

Dissard writes and sings in French, but her songs' arrangements have evolved with an unmistakably Tucson feel. Rosano's accordion evoked the Mexican border, and the drums and guitars left high desert spaces all around her melodies. Laying waste to the language barrier, Dissard sang with a physicality borne of her performance-art past, her expression by turns winsome, silly, angry, love-struck and heartbroken.

Although she brought her language and culture from France, Dissard returned there with Tucson's own vernacular. On Saturday, she demonstrated that she's been energized by new confidence.

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