At the start of 2022, Arno takes aside Cyril Prieur, his manager for thirty-five years. “I saw the doctor this morning, entrusts him with the Belgian singer, he told me I had three months left to live, four if I go through chemo. “Arno then asked me to organize his last concerts and the recording of an album, testifies today Cyril Prieur. Playing music has always been what made him the most happy. »
From February 6 to 25, the raucous Fleming of European song, blues and rock has thus a handful of shocking shows in the room of the Old Belgium, in Brussels, and in the casino of Ostend, his birthplace. Before closing, until his last breath, the ten pieces ofOpex, farewell album, to be released on September 30, five months after the singer’s death on April 23 from pancreatic cancer.
“He came to my house, in Ghent, where I set up a small studio. Writing, rehearsing, singing were the best way for him to hold on. » Mirko Banovic, bassist
After the first diagnosis of his disease, in February 2020, he had tried to overcome the frustration of concert cancellations due to the pandemic. He had recorded for this purpose, with the pianist Sofiane Pamart, an acoustic album, Live, in which he revisited the most melancholy songs of his repertoire (She loves black, My Mother’s Eyes, Lonesome Zorro…).
Like he usually does (“as soon as an album was finished, he thought of the next one », reminds us of his manager) and despite his failing health, Arno began to work, in the process, on new models with his faithful bassist and producer, Mirko Banovic. “He came to my house, in Ghent, where I set up a small studio”, remembers this accomplice met more than twenty years ago on the occasion of the album Charles Ernest (2002). “Writing, rehearsing, singing were the best way for him to hold on. »
A few songs thus take shape with the usual musicians of his group – Bruno Fevery on guitar and piano, Sam Gysel on drums – before the medical emergency gives another dimension to the project. To finalize the record, Cyril Prieur then organizes two-day sessions a week at the mythical Brussels studio ICP, where the singer has had his habits for almost forty years. His productions there were usually not stingy with festive outbursts. The context this time dictates another atmosphere.
Self-mockery and ribaldness
“We couldn’t afford to drag out or multiply the voice recordings”, specifies Mirko Banovic, explaining that the group played with Arno in live conditions. “He tried to be as honest and direct as possible. He wanted us to go to the essential, that the arrangements stick as simply as possible to the texts. » If some songs (Short circuit in my mind, The truth…) evoke a cracked body, if others are imbued with nostalgia (take me back), the singer stands out above all for his modesty and courage.
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