Rock: Ballad of Jane and Serge
Sunday 20 April 1997
Well, sort of. Her beauty has the girlish simplicity that is seldom found outside the smarter parts of Paris. Her spoken English is dated and genteel. "Thank you! Thank you so much !" she cried, both breathily and breathlessly, after arriving on stage via the stalls. "And thank you especially to the security lady who held my hand!"
She's 50 and fabulous, in a silky white vest, slim-fit black jeans and white plimsolls. The flyposters for the concert showed only her mouth, with its celebrated gap between the front teeth - a perfect imperfection, like Monroe's birthmark. In Row P, we couldn't see that clearly (a video screen would not have gone amiss), but we fell for her all the same. To paraphrase a line of Leonard Cohen's, she inhabits a hall quite beautifully.
Her voice is limited, but it's her: charming, natural, ageless. Her show is a shrine to Serge Gainsbourg, her late ex-husband and collaborator. The 20-odd songs are all written by him. "I heard that for the last time," she said after the second number, "when Deneuve read it in a little graveyard where Serge is." Just Deneuve; just Serge; very Jane Birkin.
She may be creating an archetype here - the widow-divorcee, as devoted to the memory of her man as Queen Victoria or Yoko Ono. "Why did you leave him?" an interviewer asked recently. She hesitated and said it was because he'd sent her a song that was sweet and sexy but didn't ring true.
Whether the rest of the oeuvre rings true is hard to say unless you speak fluent French. But musically, too many of the songs are thin and shapeless, even in the hands of a sympathetic nine-piece band. The rock numbers stick in first gear; the trad French tunes are better, but lack the punch that the Piaf-ish arrangements lead you to expect. "Je t'aime (moi non plus)", the once-scandalous orgasm song, turns out to be Gainsbourg's musical masterpiece. It is also Birkin's only British hit. She does not include it in the show. So you wonder whether charm is enough, regretfully deciding that it isn't. Then the curtain call arrives, and the audience (18 to 65, well-heeled), who have been sitting demurely, suddenly let go. There's a standing ovation, and another, and a third. Birkin fields the acclaim expertly. She bows so deeply that when an admirer throws her a rose, it lands on her back. Still bowing, she reaches up, grasps it, kisses it, smiles, and tucks it into her bra.
Asked for a second encore, she agrees, "but you'll have to sing it". Unaccompanied, she starts singing "La Javanaise", Gainsbourg's second- best tune, a spare and stately ballad. After a couple of words she leaves each verse to the audience. Perhaps 500 people sing along, word-perfect, and mostly in tune. It's the sort of moment that music is for.
Life & Style blogs
The Last of Us Remastered: Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Ebola virus: UK health officials issue warning to doctors as experts admit the outbreak 'is not under control'
Ebola outbreak: Why has a disease that's only ever killed 2,000 people captivated the darkest side of our imagination?
Government backs massive new £300m gene sequencing project
National Orgasm Day: Don't get caught up on climaxing
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- 1 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 Now diplomacy has failed, boycotting Israel might be the only way we can protect the people of Gaza
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- < Previous
- Next >
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client based in the Midlands is looki...
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Ecommerce Executive Working with an...