Thursday, 31 January 2013

Jane Birkin in Glasgow: Live review

Coming ahead of the rest of the events in this year's Glasgow Film Festival, an appearance at the Arches by the iconic Jane Birkin performing the work of her former partner the late French music legend Serge Gainsbourg set an auspicious tone for the annual film and music bonanza.

A screening of Birkin's new documentary about Gainsbourg opened the evening, giving a personal look at her life with Serge, before Birkin took to the stage with her band.

Opening her set with the timeless groove of Requiem Pour un Con, it was to be a jazz flavoured evening, with Birkin performing songs that Gainsbourg wrote for her, performed himself and wrote for others.

Time has been kind to his work, songs that she noted were 50 years old were as clever, smart and funny as they were when they were written.

While the smoky late night feel of Les Amours Perdus was reminiscent of Gainsbourg's original, other works like Baby Alone in Babylone benefitted from a sympathetic performance that lifted it from the 80s production of Birkin's album of the same name. Other songs, whether La Chanson de Prévert or La Ballade de Johnny Jane were little short of outstanding.

While perviously Gainsbourg's muse and lover, recent years have seen Birkin become the champion of the Gainsbourg cause, taking every opportunity during the show to remind us about "The most missed man in France.'

Meanwhile, she noted that it only took 40 years for Gainsbourg's Melody Nelson to be widely recognised as the classic it certainly is.

But the evening was more celebration than memorial, Gainsbourg the kind of artist who could turn his hand to a silly pop tune like Comic Strip - complete with sound effects - as he could a poetic piece like Amour des Feintes. Both got an airing, both were in their own way perfect.

Birkin was a warm and charming host, entertaining with stories of meeting fabulous old ladies in Sloan's before the show and tales about Gainsbourg and his work, all this while the band of young Japanese musicians making a strong case for the continued vitality of Gainsbourg's music.

With a  smile that could light up the darkest former railway arch, Birkin wore her iconic status lightly, with a seemingly fragile voice that nonetheless demanded the listener's attention.

As an ambassador for Serge Gainsbourg's work, Birkin's show makes it clear that his legacy is in safe hands.

This review originally appeared on STV.TV

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