Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House, NY Premiere of Persécution Tonight

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House (01/20/10)
Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House
Photo: Jon Klemm

From the beginning the musical career of Gainsbourg fille has been entwined with that of Gainsbourg père, who died in 1991. Ms. Gainsbourg made her recording debut in 1985 at 13, a duet with her father on one of his juiciest succès de scandales, “Lemon Incest.” On Ms. Gainsbourg’s 2006 CD “5:55,” her first album after a 20-year musical hiatus, she sounded weighed down by her patrimony, singing in a voice delicate to the point of self-effacing amid orchestral pop arrangements that explicitly echoed her father’s records.

“Just because my father was such a genius with his songwriting, his lyrics, his music — that doesn’t mean I have any gift,” Ms. Gainsbourg, 38, said in a telephone interview from her home in Paris. “I don’t believe in that. I have my own path. But the comparisons are constant. And the comparisons are heavy to wear.”

In an e-mail message Ms. Birkin asserted that her daughter has already found her own identity. “I think she has established, in two very big-selling records, that ‘she is she,’ not Serge, not me. But, sweetly she has our voices in her head.”

Yet on “IRM,” which was produced and largely written by Beck, Ms. Gainsbourg’s anxiety of influence seems to have dissipated. She still sings in that patented Gainsbourgian hiss on “Master’s Hands” and several other tracks. But she branches out elsewhere, ambling through folk-rock ballads, venturing into dance-punk and blues, and letting Beck swamp her voice in layers of distortion. The result is an engrossingly eclectic pop record and a kind of coming-out party: the first time that Ms. Gainsbourg the chanteuse has displayed the charisma of Charlotte Gainsbourg the actress. [NYTimes.com]

I caught the second of Charlotte’s performances at the Bell House (Jan 20) and while some people at the club who attended both shows said she was less nervous on night 2, she still didn’t seem completely comfortable up on stage to me. She played a 45 minute set, with one 15 minute encore, and aside a little talk about Beck before “Master’s Hands”, there wasn’t much banter between songs. I’m glad I went, and while it was great to see the mysterious and iconic Gainsbourg live and up close, in the end, I don’t think this will go down as one of my “top shows” of 2010. Her whisper-like voice was drowned out a bit by her backing band, and even the strongest songs like “Heaven Can Wait” and “Master’s Hands” lacked a bit of the punch that they have on the record.

If you missed Charlotte in concert, you can catch the New York premiere of her new film Persécution tonight (Jan 25) at The Florence Gould Hall in Manhattan. Her new record IRM (which I really do like) is streaming this week (Jan 25-31) at Spinner.com. (No word on whether Charlotte will be putting together a full-blown your behind IRM, her upcoming Jan 29 concert in Toronto has been cancelled.)

More photos from the Bell House and a poster and trailer for Persécution after the jump.

Persecution

As part of a festival celebrating the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, the French Institute Alliance Française presents the New York premiere of Patrice Chéreau’s “PERSÉCUTION,” starring Ms. Gainsbourg, Romain Duris and Jean-Hugues Anglade. The story of a couple whose lives are thrown awry when a stranger begins stalking the husband, it is the first film Mr. Chéreau has directed since “Gabrielle” in 2005; he’s been more active as an opera director, making his Metropolitan Opera debut with his staging of Janacek’s “From the House of the Dead” this season. Monday at 7 p.m., Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, Manhattan, fiaf.org; $10. [NYTimes.com]

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House
Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Setlist for Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House (01/20/10):
IRM
Greenwich Mean Time
Me and Jane Doe
Dandelion
In the End
Assassins
Just Like a Woman
The Collector
Master’s Hands
Heaven Can Wait
Looking Glass Blues
The Operation
Trick Pony
//Encore//
Vanities
Sorry Angel
Cafe des Artistes
-via ‘Sup Mag

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