A couple of songs in, Camille asks, "Are there any French here tonight?" and three-quarters of the crowd roar in response. It's a testament to her success back home, and her relatively underground status in the UK. It's a shame, because the Parisienne's last album Le Fil - an avant-pop, beat-boxing, hand-clapping exercise in melodic mimimalism - was one of the most maverick albums of 2005, drawing widespread and obvious comparisons to Björk (they both have breasts; it's inevitable).
Dressed in an outfit seemingly made of shredded loo roll and with two male sidekicks (one on bass, one on piano, both on body-slapping), she delivered one of the most surprising, funny and warm performances I have ever seen - more akin to an art "happening" than a boring old gig.
Rather sweetly, she translates the song's lyrics for the handful of - as she puts it - "indigenous" people in the audience. "This song," she explains, "has the following question: what do you find in girls' handbags?" before launching into "Le Sac des Filles". To illustrate her point, she collects several bags from girls in the front row, hangs them round her neck and squawks like a parrot, while one of her sidekicks creates the beat by slapping himself. At one point, three audience members are hauled on stage to do some granddad-style dancing. At another, Camille pretends to tapdance while the bassist beat-boxes the tap-sounds. During the crowd-pleasing "Too Drunk to Fuck", she swigs from a bottle of cognac, and then pours it over the long-suffering front row (who, you remember, have already lost their handbags).
Fun and games aside, the fact remains that Camille can do anything with her childlike voice, from soulful grunts to throat-singing, from baby noises to woofs, meows, clucks and cock-a-doodle-doos. Although she has little to do with the French chansonnier tradition of, say, Edith Piaf, she manages to convey emotions through the tone of her voice. Even Katie Melua's bizarre cameo during the encore can't shake the impression that Camille is one of the world's greatest popstars. The world just doesn't know it yet.Reuse content