REVIEWS: Diva adored

IN CONCERT Jane Birkin RFH, London
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The Independent Culture
Jane Birkin does a sort of dance that makes her look as though she's walking on a tightrope. Slightly crouched, hands balanced at each side, she carefully places one foot in front of the other and moves forward in time to the music. Then she turns round and comes back. Not quite dancing, but almost.

The lovely Jane did a lot of this during the evening. At other times, she varied her performance by staying in one place, her thumb hooked in her jeans, and simply bobbed up and down. Meanwhile, her nine musicians played classical flourishes and heavy rock riffs, all worked out to make the songs sound even better. Sad yet beautiful, these songs consisted of rhyming words and cleverly hidden tunes. She delivered them easily in her girlish voice, always smiling, and the audience loved her, although when the show started they must have wondered where she was. The group launched into the opening bars of "Jane B", but there was no Jane - only her disembodied voice. Then the spotlight found her, coming in from the back, slowly, (smiling), moving among her people, making them feel happy merely with her presence. This was true worship.

Next thing, she was on stage among the musicians whom she loved and encouraged. It was Jane Birkin's evening but she unselfishly involved them all. At one point, she went over to the lead guitarist and pulled his left ear while he played a solo. Later, she tweaked the pianist's cheek, and poked the cellist gently in the shoulder. It was these simple gestures that made the crowds adore her. She sang songs of vulnerability, such as "Baby Alone in Babylon" and "Sorry Angel", and funny pop songs such as "Di Doo Dah". There was also a song in which Jane and her two violinists had to whistle a jolly tune between the verses. This one sounded as though it should be called "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

Jane did three encores, but still the people would not let her go. She stood before the cheering crowd and looked for a moment as if she was going to body-surf over the top of them. This she could have done in complete safety. Instead, she held her microphone out in an outstretched hand and the audience sang "La Javanaise" to her. It was like attending a candle- lit vigil. There was one other song which remained a mystery. It was called "Depression au-dessus du jardin" - French for depression over a garden. When Jane Birkin offered her translation, some insensitive members of the audience were seen laughing. Magnus Mills