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11:25 pm: 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.

Current Location: HA9 8DS
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Current Music: BBC1
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[User Picture]
Date:October 23rd, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
It would seem that some people didn't enjoy the show as much as I did. To be fair, of the six acts, I would say they were, in order, excellent, reasonable, dreadful, excellent, pretty good and reasonable. Here are a couple of other reviews:


"We had a band that drowned out the singers, half the singers sounding as if they had spent a bit too long at the bar, and a concert that looked and sounded like it needed to have a tech run and a rehearsal."


"Jacques Brel is far too important an artist to be thrown at this lot. Where was the quality control? Why hadn’t Diamanda Galas been asked to leave the building? Why was the onstage orchestra so poor and the amplification system so dreadful?"

[User Picture]
Date:October 27th, 2009 07:07 am (UTC)

Financial Times


"Posterity, apparently, did not bother Brel, whose views on the hereafter lapsed from Catholicism to something more akin to Albert Camus’s outlook, but this was a birthday party he would surely have enjoyed. (4 star rating)"
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