Chez Carla et Nicolas

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…

Yearlists (8)

bands_liminanasWhen starting to think about 2013, my first thought was that it wasn’t a good year at all. No highlights, disappointments, a meager year in the FS history.
I listened to everything again and started making a shortlist, with about 20 names.  And then the other year lists appeared. 42 different names (!) of which only 10 made my shortlist….
Maybe 2013 wasn’t that bad overall, and can we hail 2013 in the future as one of the most diverse years in FS history.

So apologies to Vanessa Paradis, Pendentif, and Laurence Hélie who were bubbling under, but here’s a yearlist with a lot of new names…

10. Carla Bruni – Little French Songs
Comeback album of the former French First Lady. All political fuzz set aside, it’s still Carla Bruni, people!
09. Marilou – Au Milieu De Mon Écart
08. Ottilie – La Histoires d’O2 – XIIII
Belgian singer with a  special album, that stayed a bit under the radar. See more here
07. Sarah Olivier – Pink Galina
06. Ariane Brunet – Fusée
05. Sophie Maurin – Sophie Maurin
04.Sally Folk  – Confection
03. Angèle David-Guillou – Kourouma
02. Riff Cohen – A Paris Surprising album. the title song (here) makes me happy everytime I hear it.
01. The Limiñanas   – Costa Blanca
Gainsbourg with guitars.. Wonderful album! (and in january they will come to Holland. Wonder how the will perform life!)
[couldn’t find a clip of their neiw album, so here is an older one!]

Carla Bruni

French music giant Michel Legrand made a Christmas-album, with featured guests like Jamie Cullum, Mika and Carla Bruni. It’s released in two versions, one with the best-known international stars (Iggy Pop too), one with more French singers, like Olivia Ruiz and Coeur de Pirate. Shame. The track with Carla Bruni isn’t the stand-out song on the album, yet it will gather the most attention I guess. So here it is. The orchestra sounds great, Carla should refrain from trying to sing – her whisper is good enough. For me, at least. The song by the way is a cover of a seasonal track by Michel Fugain from 1975.

Carla Bruni & Michel Legrand – Jolis sapins

Bruni vs Bowie

“It has to go down as one of the worst covers in the history of rock, although there are certainly a few by Tom Jones I would rank lower.” “Absolute Rubbish.” “What did David do to deserve this?” Random comments from French magazines and websites (see here for more) on Carla Sarkozy-Bruni’s take on David Bowie’s Absolute Beginners. She recorded it for the (DB-management approved) tribute album We Were So Turned On, a double-album with covers from Duran Duran, A Place to Bury Strangers, Warpaint and John Frusciante.  (See also here) Some are good, most are so-so. The odd thing for a charity album is the limited availability – you can only buy it in the UK iTunes store (and listen to it on Spotify, worldwide), but webshops outside of the UK don’t sell it. Yet. Now, is that version by Bruni really as bad as the French would like you to think? Have a listen yourself. And be sure to check Keren Ann’s contribution, a wonderful fragile version of Life on Mars?

Carla Bruni – Absolute Beginners
Keren Ann – Life on Mars?