Native son Stephan Eicher drew an outsize crowd at the Stravinski Auditorium, where he announced that it was 13 years and one day since his first appearance at the Montreux Festival. While it’s easy to see why he’s popular in his native Switzerland, it’s hard to see why he’s not more popular outside of Europe. Eicher’s albums have charted in Germany, France and Switzerland; he sings in four or more languages (sometimes in the same song), and does English numbers, including “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” but he’s unknown in the US.
Half Swiss, half Yeniche–which we would probably call gypsy in the States—Eicher looks a part: swarthy and handsome, with slicked-back hair, black vest, gold earring and sporting an Erroll Flynn moustache, the man has the dangerous appeal of a pirate.
As for his music, Eicher can sing, write and lead a big band and a choral section and play a number of instruments. One of my favorite tunes of the night, “Hope,” has a singer-songwriter vibe but also an ethnic twist (Celtic? Yeniche?) I can’t place but love nonetheless. Check out his 1994 live video of “Hope” in Carcassonne, France, and let me know what that instrument is!
For the show’s finale, Eicher brought out a huge horn section and the Choral Group of Montreux for a traditional song from Bern (his home canton and the Swiss capital), and walked the whole entourage offstage, into the audience, and out the door. Au revoir!
– Suzanne Cadgène