Ian (ringbark) wrote,
Ian
ringbark

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The songs of Jacques Brel

Just got back from a magnificent show at the Barbican. Carousel: The Songs of Jacques Brel. I only found out it was on after it had sold out, which could have been a problem. Returns only, but a lady fortunately had a spare. I paid her, she got her money back, I saw the show, everyone wins!

Each of six performers got to sing three of Jacques Brel's wonderful songs.

First up was Momus. Surprisingly, the show opened with "Ne me quitte pas" (Don't leave me), which is probably his best known song. Momus sang in English, vulnerable and pleading: don't leave me, don't leave me. The pleading becomes more and more pitiful as the song reaches to
a tragic end, but was a wonderful triumph for the perfomer. Brave or foolish to open with the best song? Certainly a remarkable performance. Next, "La ville s'endormait", which had more life, forming a bridge between "Ne me quitte pas" and "Les Bourgeois", clearly a song by someone who has drunk too much, and a translation which referred in the same breath to dancing like Richard Dawkins and like Robbie Williams. I've never heard the like of it before and I
probably never will again. A magnificent opening to the show.

Arthur H came on next, singing in French. His concern was that women kept on quitting Brel, as he explained in the introduction "Madeleine". Madeleine isn't coming tonight, or next week, or ever.

Then it was the pianist Diamanda Galas. Oh dear. She beat hell out of the bottom end of the piano for "La Chanson Des Vieux Amants" and out out of the top end for "Amsterdam". If I wanted to cast a witch in a pantomime, her voice would be ideal and I would add her to my cast in a moment, but as a singer of Brel chansons, she fell woefully short, an opinion shared by many in the audience. The interval provided a chance for ears to recover.

If starting with "Ne me quitte pas" was brave, so was Camille O'Sullivan's opener, "Marieke", which she chose to sing a cappella, in English, French and Flemish. Then she sang a reflective version of "Les Vieux", describing the sorrow of growing old and the death of the partner. Then she removed some garments before singing "Au suivant" (Next), a raunchy little song about someone who makes her living in that manner.

Next up, Arno. What to say about him. Either he's a rotten drunk or he's asober and a brilliant actor singing in the persona of a rotten drunk. It was a remarkable show, though I was not familiar with any of the songs he sang.

The "star" of the show, Marc Almond, was next, with "Le Diable Ca Va", "J'arrive" (I'm coming) and "La Valse a Mille Temps" (Carousel). I was disappointed by "Carousel" as I would have rather had a more faithful translation of "La Valse a Mille Temps". Nevertheless, Marc was a showman, as had been most of those before him tonight.

The fianle was shared by the best of the performers, an arrangement of "La Chanson de Jacky". And then what happened? No encore at all, sadly.

I made my way to Moorgate, thinking about what might have been an encore. "Les Flamandes", "Le Moribond", a proper version of "Amsterdam"... the possibilities endless. But I will look out for music by Momus and look for Marc Almond's "Jacques" album.
Tags: brel, review
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