RCC Fringe – Elder Hall, Thu 14 Feb.
[MUSIC ~ SA PREMIERE ~ AUS]
After four albums of Serge Gainsburg songs, Mick Harvey continues his mission to make Gainsbourg’s work better known in the non-French music world by performing these songs live in the Fringe, with a band that includes Dan Luscombe, J.P.Shilo, Hugo Cran and Glenn Lewis, a four piece string section, and singers Sophia Brous and Xanthe Waite. Gainsbourg wrote a lot for female singers such as Jane Birkin, Brigette Bardot, and Juliette Greco, including many male/female duets, so Sophia and Xanthe get many moments to shine.
Mick Harvey seems a little unsettled in the role of front man, describing his task as ‘perilous’, and looking perennially a little worried that the whole thing might fall apart at any moment. Of course it doesn’t. His band is very much up to the task, and Mick and his team deliver a fascinating concoction of both the melodic style pop songs and punchy rock songs that made up Gainsbourg’s repertoire.
Many of the songs are taken from the first album of Gainsbourg songs, Intoxicated Man, including Harley Davidson, 69 Erotic Year, and Bonnie & Clyde, but songs from each of the albums are represented.
There is not much talking between songs, but there are some interesting stories along the way. Sophia delivers a delightful version of The Eyes To Cry, as it appears on Harvey’s album Intoxicated Women. He tells us this song was recorded by Nana Mouskouri but never by Gainsbourg himself. Xanthe provides a beautiful rendition of Puppet Of Wax, which Harvey says was written by Gainsbourg and sung by France Gall in the 1965 Eurovision song contest, representing Luxembourg because France didn’t want it. It went on to be the winning song that year. Xanthe’s version also appears on Intoxicated Women.
Most tribute acts in the Fringe consist of well known songs by favourite artists the audience can easily enjoy singing along to. I would hazard a guess that for many people in the audience tonight, including myself, while they might be aware of Serge Gainsbourg, the songs would be on the periphery of their knowledge, and the evening is all the more interesting because of it. A highlight of this year’s Fringe for me.
Image courtesy of Adrian Miller