review and photos by Ana Carolina Ferraz
Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s blue blood is one of the best kinds. She is the daughter of French music icon Serge Gainsbourg and British actress Jane Birkin. When she stepped on the stage of a sold out Crocodile on April 14, she was facing a new challenge (it’s her first tour ever), and her parents would have surely been proud. She came to Seattle to promote her third studio album, IRM, which was inspired by several trips to the hospital in a period of six months. She had to go through several procedures where her brain was scanned while she lay immobile inside a large tube (IRM is the French acronym for Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Inspiration can come from the strangest places.
On stage she was very shy and would thank screaming fans saying nice things (most of them in French) about her and her band throughout the performance. Her shyness was not exactly surprising, though. She recently talked about stage fright with Sonic Youth’s bass player Kim Gordon for Spin‘s anniversary issue. “I’m very nervous. What if I’m terrible?” she says about her debut in front of an audience as a singer.
She wasn’t terrible at all. The set started with the title track and its repetitive hypnotic beats reproducing the MRI machine sound along with lyrics about ghost images in her mind. She revisited not only her previous albums but also her father’s repertoire and even Bob Dylan’s. As she said herself at some point “she’s daring now”. The cover of “Just Like A Woman” was a nice surprise and Gainsbourg sang it sitting on a tall stool, which gave a more intimate feel to it. Her whispery soft voice fit perfectly into Dylan’s lyrics.
“Trick Pony”, one of the strongest tracks of IRM, closed the main set and it was full of energy. Not only for this song in particular but for all of them, her band was simply excellent. They had a lot do deal with and delivered brilliantly. Someone even screamed, “your drummer is amazing!” to which she promptly responded, “yes, he is” with a very big smile. People were delighted and the encore just doubled the feeling. The slightly faster-paced “Voyage” made the song even richer than it is on the record (the violin interventions sounded great) and turned the Crocodile into a club with smiling people dancing shamelessly. An unrecognizable “Le Chat Du Cafe Des Artistes” followed. There is an electronic background now and it was an all around reinvention for the lo-fi original track. Finally, the second cover of Serge Gainsbourg, “Couler Café” (the first one was “Hotel Particulier”), made the considerable number of French people in the audience very happy and sing at the top of their lungs. The initially timid singer was now dancing and having a great time. It was a little piece of France right here in Washington State. “I think the crowd will not like me”, she said on the Spin article. Your predictions could not be more incorrect. The crowd loved you. Merci, Charlotte.
View more photos here.