Text: Nick Forrester
A quiet street around the corner from the Canal Saint Martin. A few up-market restaurants, trendy shops and bobo boutiques as well as a job agency, a workers union and a few ateliers that never seem to open; here lies the Alhambra. Not much goes on on in the daytime apart from kids smoking outside the Lycée a few doors down.
The atmosphere tends to change however when there’s a show in town but this is only five to fifteen times a month, so most of the time all is quiet but the infrequent performances stand out. Primarily a music venue, but sometimes moonlighting as a theatre the Alhambra attracts everything from Jazz Manouche to Electro. Previous performers include Calvin Harris, Dick Rivers and Sophie Huriaux.
The crowd that each artist attracts is particularly conspicuous. One hot July afternoon Japanese megastar Gackt arrived in town with his band Yellow Fried Chickenz to play to a packed Alhambra audience. Throughout the afternoon this normally chic and subdued area was transformed, by way of a significant amount of pink hair dye, knee length Dock Martins and long leather jackets, into Paris’ first punk arrondissement.
The Alhambra was opened in 2008 and it was seen as a modest resurrection of the old Alhambra, which was located nearby at 50 rue de Malte. The old theatre has impressive history. Built in 1866 it housed 2500 seats and hosted circuses, opera, theatre and music. It was one of Paris’ principle venues for a hundred years and as well as hosting some of the finest opera, classical music it was also a temple of Jazz in the 50s hosting the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Due to financial reasons it was forced to close in 1967.
The new Alhambra is certainly far more humble venue but it has an air of class, with an art deco lobby, modern interior and quality sound and lighting. Also, its eclectic bill of performers and theatrical production is always worth checking out.It is only a small venue, with room for up to 800 (600 seated) and as such it is a fantastically intimate place, particularly when you consider seeing the likes of Calvin Harris performing.
21 rue Yves Toudic – 75010 Paris
Métro République or Jacques Bonsergent