Charlotte Gainsbourg at the Bell House – January 19

After spending a decent amount of time with her sophomore album thanks to the exclusive first listen series over at NPR Music, I was pretty pumped at the prospect of seeing Charlotte Gainsbourg in concert. (1) As previously blogged, her song with Beck “Heaven Can Wait” is absolutely fantastic, and you must watch the video if you haven’t already.

I missed the opening band, Dinosaur Feathers, but two separate people said I “didn’t miss much,” so no biggie. Then came Charlotte. She was clearly nervous… to the extent that she kind of resembled a wind-up doll or a marionette animated by some external force. She’d stand there, unassuming, in the spotlight, open her mouth a bit, and then not sing right away.  Despite her hesitance, she was clearly trying and the audience was more than forgiving. Over and over, they yelled things like, “You’re beautiful, Charlotte! I love you!” or “You’re amazing. I love your hair” to which she’d  smile demurely or no her head. With time, that deer-in-the-headlights look mellowed a bit, and her act got tighter. In particular, her performance for the last couple of songs (“Operation” and “Trick Pony”) was energetic and more confident.

I have to say – based on what I had heard on her album, I was mildly disappointed. She was not the powerful, seductive, and alluring chanteuse I was expecting. No, she was certainly no François Hardy or Lykke Li. As I walked away from the Bell House, I tried to gage other peoples’ reactions. Here, I’m afraid was another example of people coming to the show largely based on who she is and not the music she makes. (2) I admit that was part of the reason I went. I was expecting a show, an act to get fully sucked into. But people seemed more alive mingling and head bobbing along to the music in between sets than they did to Charlotte Gainsbourg save for a few notable songs. On the way out, one girl said, “Well it may be genetic, but she still does have a little bit of the magic. I’ll still pay to watch her.”

In a recent phone interview with the New York Times, Gainsbourg states the following:

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

Indeed. No one said it would be easy.

For a limited time, you can steam the entirety of IRM via NPR Music. Be sure to take advantage of this while you can. Despite my take on her show last night, I still found myself buying a copy of her upcoming album on the way out. After all… it was produced by Beck.

(1) Luckily, I was not scarred by her ball-busting performance in Lars von Trier’s Antichrist since I have not yet seen it.

(2) Charlotte, of course, is the daughter of the famous French pop star Serge Gainsbourg.

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3 Responses to “Charlotte Gainsbourg at the Bell House – January 19”


  1. 1 Peter January 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I saw the Wed show too and was underwhelmed. (I’m def. among those who attended because of who she was.) I couldn’t quite buy her nervousness. She’s an actress and not, you know, a terrible one. So I’d say it was part of the act.

  2. 2 mattyu January 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I was looking forward to reading your post!

    Yeah, I wasn’t blown away.. but it was enjoyable. She’s not really a great singer, but she has talented people behind her (her band, songwriters like Beck). The French crooning works for some songs and not others. We likened her to a strange fawn-like creature looking a little lost on stage. But there’s something kind of sweet about seeing someone of her celebrity, with two sold-out shows and an adoring audience, be so genuinely nervous.

    Actually, the audience creeped me out a little bit haha.. “You look great, Charlotte. Great voice, great hair…”

  3. 3 Michael January 21, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I saw Charlotte on Tues eve at the Bell House. In going back and seeing several interviews on Youtube, and in speaking to her briefly after the show, I don’t think her hesitant or nervous demenor is an act. She is an original personality and that is part of her allure. She is the same in speaking to a camera, an audience or an individual. Very composed in her fluttery way.


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