Concerts by Francophone artists are a rather rare occurrence here in Los Angeles. In the eight years that I’ve lived in the area there’s only been a handful artists who’ve ventured this far west; Keren Ann, Émilie Simon,  Jane Birkin, Coeur de pirate, while just last month, Biarritz’s finest, La Femme, played a small intimate gig. So when it was announced that ex-first lady Carla Bruni was appearing in town this weekend, an opportunity presented itself that I wasn’t going to miss… and given that half the ex-pat French émigrés of Southern California seemed to be in attendance as well, I wasn’t alone in my thinking…

20140426 Carli Bruni Luckman Poster

After a standing ovation for husband Nicolas as he took his seat  (which explained the nervous looking Secret Service types milling around), the house lights slowly dimmed and the dulcet piano of Cyril Barbessol and Taofik Farah’s guitar – both impeccable multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist musicians, who were as  responsible for setting both the scene and creating the ambiance – lead into the opening bars of “Déranger les pierres”; breathless vocals floated over the P.A… and as the song drew to a close, Carla Bruni emerged from the shadows to rapturous applause…

Dressed in a simple outfit comprising a black blouse, black leather jeans, topped with a red tapered velvet jacket and just oozing effortless charm, Ms. Bruni proceeded over the best part of the next two hours to offer us a masterclass in the art of the Chanson. The format was incredibly simple – in her totally disarming accent, Carla would introduce a song, illuminating with a brief story (spoiler alert – most of the songs revolve around the universal themes of love and attraction), tell a joke at the expense of the French Language (“Ta tienne” translated nonsensically as “Your yours…”) and then hold us spelbound.

The concert was billed as “Carla Bruni sings little French songs” (the title of her most recent album). In fact she drew heavily from all three of her French-language albums (Quelqu’un m’a dit”, “Comme si de rien n’était” as well as the aforementioned “Little French Songs”). The night was a cent pour cent celebration of the chanson francaise – even to the degree that Carla introduced her version of Charles Trenet’s “Douce France” (“Dolce Francia”) in the context of a homage from a young girl recently moved from Italy and falling in love with the musical culture and history of her new home.

Carla prefaced “Dolce Francia” with “Little French Songs”, reiterating her love of the Chanson through the words of her song, explaining that while the French language may not have given the world Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong or Elvis (and er, Michael Jackson?), it has given us chanteurs; the likes of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, Georges Brassens and the aforementioned Charles Trenet – songwriters and performers who have all placed an emphasis on lyrical content and rhythm…  And it was to this memory that Carla dedicated, to great applause from those knowledgeable amongst us, a covers Barbara’s “Si le photo est bonne.”

The set was particularly well balanced – a representative mix of slower romantic numbers (“L’Amourouse”, “J’arrive à toi”); up-beat and amusing (“Pas une dame”, Raphael”, “Chez Keith et Anita” and “Mon Raymond” – an ode to hubby Nicolas – although I still can’t quite see him as a pirate); the sad (“Darling” and “Salut marin” – an ode to her half-brother who died from an AIDS-related illness).

Now no evening with Carla Bruni would be complete without arguably her best known song, “Quelqu’un m’a dit”, but the added piano introduction added a still greater poignancy, especially as before we know it, time had flown and the closing number, “La Dernière Minute”, ended almost before it begins (the song as recorded on “Quelqu’un m’a dit” lasts exactly one minute – Carla thoughtfully sang it through twice – adding, that if she has one last wish, she’s ask for another minute… and another…)

Myself? For my wish I was transported for the evening from LA to Paris; and La Pigalle, I’Île Saint-Louis and Les Tuileries of Carla’s Little French songs…

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  1. marksl

    ‘Douce France’

    You can watch Carla Bruni singing ‘Dolce Francia’ (the Italian version) on TV5 Acoustique 2013 at:
    I think this is the only filmed version in Italian.

    A nice comparison is with Charles Trenet’s original interpretation, 50 years ago, live on Netherlands TV in 1963, with introduction by the presenter, at

    Juliette Gréco offers perhaps the smoothest version – ‘Douce France’ is played for the first 3m50s of a 10 minute slide-set of France , followed by her ‘Accordeon’ and ‘Mon homme’ – see