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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Rocker From Telephone Makes Return Call on Moscow

Louis Bertignac has returned to Russia. Most famous for his part in the French new wave rock group Telephone, he's also the man who put some joy into a moody Russian group.

A skinny, angular man with a goatee flecked with gray, Bertignac, 44, has devoted his life to rock and roll music.

In various bands since he was 14, Bertignac has played on the same bill as the Rolling Stones, jammed with Jimmy Page and formed a group with the drummer from The Clash.

Together with his latest three-man French group, he has already played one week at Chesterfield Cafe. Concerts start again Wednesday, and after playing mainly covers last week f from James Brown to Eric Clapton f the band will mix in more of its own songs to get ready for a French tour.

The last two years have been an almost constant tour with more than 200 gigs. Next year will include tours of Nepal, Korea and Vietnam.

A new album is coming out next year, but Bertignac is much more comfortable on stage than in the studio.

"I'm a different person," he said, "It's like meeting the love of my life. And this is every night and it lasts for an hour. ? It's the real world to me compared to the studio."

Although the crowds have been small, Bertignac isn't complaining.

"It can't be terrible on stage ? even one person can give you the energy. Twenty people and you're on a cloud," he said.

So far, the only difference Bertignac has noticed in crisis-hit Moscow is the way the crowd dances to blues as if it's the last waltz.

"They start dancing to the slow numbers when we play the blues. ? I wish French people would have the same reaction," he said, doing a quick impression of a French viewer sitting blankly watching the band.

The last time Bertignac was in Russia was eight years ago when it was the Soviet Union. His band played a double bill with a group f Bertignac couldn't remember the name f from Leningrad.

"They were such nice guys I couldn't understand why they were playing such music, really depressing, not beautiful."

To Bertignac's surprise, one time when they went busking, the lead singer turned out to be a Beatles fan and Bertignac asked him why, if he knew the Beatles, he played such miserable songs.

"It's the way it is in Russia now. We must play depressing songs because that's the way it must be," Bertignac recalled the lead singer saying.

But Bertignac had an effect on him. Some time later the lead singer's girlfriend visited Bertignac in Paris and confided that the singer had heeded his advice and started to play Beatles songs in concert.

At first Bertignac wasn't keen on returning to Russia after the recent media reports.

"There were lots of bad things said, like 'you'll get beaten for 400 rubles.' I was very frightened."

But before deciding whether to come, he tapped Chesterfield Cafe into a search engine on the Internet and two hours later got an e-mail from a band that had also played in Moscow saying "the only problem we had was finding good coffee."

"Some people say, 'don't go to the Bronx,' but I spent two of the best months of my life there," Bertignac said.

Louis Bertignac will play Wednesday to Sunday at 10 p.m. at Chesterfield Cafe, 26 Zemlyanoi Val, 917-0150. Metro: Kurskaya. Price is free before 8 p.m., 40 rubles 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 60 rubles after 9 p.m. Free entry for women at all times.