The arrival of Vanessa Paradis, partner of Johnny Depp, actress, model and face of Chanel, in Camden Town is an event. As a singer, she's still best known for the 1987 hit "Joe le Taxi", so this was a rare chance to see her music live. The concert was pretty much a run-through of last Christmas's French-only CD Une Nuit à Versailles, a live, orchestrated, acoustic-leaning recasting of her back catalogue. Despite issuing ten albums since 1988, Paradis's oeuvre is slim – one is a "Best of" and four are live sets.
Still, that didn't concern the mostly-French crowd. In fact, the presence of Paradis herself didn't seem to bother them either – there was a constant hum of chat. It was probably enough being here.
In the flesh, her voice retains the pipsqueak cutesiness of "Joe le Taxi", which she recorded at age 14. The delicate "Pourtant" and "Que Fait la Vie" were lovely and lent themselves well to the string quartet arrangements. A downbeat reworking of "Joe le Taxi" and a sensitive reading of Françoise Hardy's "Le Temps de l'Amour" charmed, while the percussion intro of "Dans Mon Café" cleverly referenced her old collaborator Serge Gainsbourg's "Couleur Café".
Announcing that "I'm going to touch an untouchable song", it seemed as though she might spring a surprise. But no, it was yet another leaden trudge through Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" was flat, and any atmosphere she had created was somewhat diminished. When not perched on a stool, she moved as though choreographed, swaying to a set pattern. With her trademark Chanel red lipstick, Paradis was like a marionette, unspontaneous and brittle. It's possibly better to stick with the records, see her in pictures or on a screen. That may be about as real as she gets.