Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Jane Birkin in Glasgow

Off to see Jane Birkin playing in Glasgow tonight, in what I think is her first ever gig in the city.

She's playing at The Arches as part of the Glagow Film Festival, with a screening of her new short film Souvenirs of Serge, which takes home footage of Gainsbourg and weaves it into a documentary.

She also plays a set of Gainsbourg songs, working with a group of Japanese musicians. She explains on her website: "Why do another tour, another concert?

"Well, when it was going to be conventional, I too wondered why I was singing Serge again, even if it was celebrating the 20 years after Serge's death, even if it was a very personal 40 years since "Melody Nelson" but what did I have to offer... I'd done it all before, Serge in pop, arabesque, classic quator, 14 musicians, 6 musicians, a harp, a squeeze box, violins... this year others have started, their "Serge" was a new point of view, their interpretations... so I started contemplating, putting it all off..."

"Then there was the Japanese disaster ... of unbelievable horror, earthquake, tsunami, and then the ghasly news of the nuclear horror, the like of which we had never witnessed... the images... the gigantic waves pounding down, the cars trying to escape, the people running, the dignified faces of poor parents looking for their children, the numbers of dead and missing mounting, the terrifying views, over and over, the great wave, the fuming nuclear centers..."

"What to do? I have known these people for forty years... "go there" I thought... tell them that back home folk are thinking of them, but get there, "and do what ?" What can I do? ...the only thing I can do... a concert..."

"So this is the immediate result of that concert, Sachiko had fixed up the best Japanese group of musicians in four days! "I'm coming to Tokyo" we were Friday, by Monday I was there...

"When Gluzman asked if I wanted to do the concerts for Serge in America... I said "yes, BUT with these Japanese musicians.

"I had found my reason...

"Here we come... Serge Gainsbourg and Jane via Japan"

She's never been too precious about his music, and rather than keeping it as some kind of museum piece, she's been at the forefront of re-inventing his work, whether in an Arabic context with her Arabesque project or with other bands.

Birkin has certainly done an incredible job in raising awareness of Serge and his music, and has done so to an audience normally beyond the usual reach of French music. Her appearance in the UK has been accompanied by a number of articles in the press where again she takes the opportunity to talk about Serge and his work. 

I think opinions are changing, and Gainsbourg is getting the recognition that he deserves, rather than as just a purveyor of a novelty record, and much of the credit for this has to go to Jane Birkin.

So while it might be her first time in Glasgow (she played in Edinburgh about ten years ago during her Arabesque tour if I remember right) it's not her first connection with the city, performing as she did with Glasgow band Franz Ferdinand for a very modern take on the song Sorry Angel. 

The song originally appeared on the Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited collection that was released in 2006 which also included interpretations by Cat Power, Jarvis Cocker, Portishead and Michael Stipe. It's hard to think that a collection like this would ever have been released had it not been for the work done by Jane over the years.

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