It is said that London is technically the fourth largest French city in the world based on population. Judging by the audience makeup at Charlotte Gainsbourg's show at KOKO, this is a gross underestimation.
Bouncing off the galleries are more French voices than your average Parisian rally, providing Gainsbourg with a effective home crowd in the town that she happily names her "second city" after seductive opener 'Lying With You', treating the audience to one of her trademarked, radiant smiles that seems to penetrate all the way to the dark recesses of the highest balconies.
It's the kind of smile that could make the whole nation tear up Article 50 and run back to Europe with open arms just to see it again. Unfortunately there are a couple of occasions throughout the show where her voice does not quite manage to match the feat of her smile.
It's easy to forget that, despite being involved in music since her father wrote the eternally creepy 'Lemon Incest' (which she still closes the show with) for her in 1984, Gainsbourg the Younger is still a relative newcomer to the touring circuit. It's especially easy to forget this when the songs from her latest album 'Rest' sound so masterfully assured on record. There the combination of her silky croon and low-key French disco is perfect for wrapping around your head and allowing to trickle gently into your ears.
However, despite the tightness of her band and the accompanying flurry of disco ball-scattered lights, potential Ed Banger-esque bangers as 'Sylvia Says' and 'Deadly Valentine' end up feeling a little underpowered in a live setting (a notable exception should be made for a re-worked version 'Paradisco' from 2011's 'Stage Whisper', which boasts a nicely beefed-up chorus and an absolutely electrifying guitar solo towards the end).
Her setup, with the band dressed all in white standing underneath drifting mirrors and flanked by florescent white posts, brings to mind the groundbreaking staging from Soulwax's 'FROM DEEWEE' tour. Unless you are standing in the dead centre of the venue, though, the unusual central frame placed right at the front of the stage obscures the performance and makes Gainsbourg look a little like a despondent goalkeeper waiting for the game to move back to her end of the pitch.
Her relative unshowiness (and who needs to be showy when you're one of the coolest women on the planet?) means that the audience's attention is continually drawn towards her overly-expressive drummer, whose exaggerated movements make him look like a toddler bashing pots and pans with kitchen utensils, and her male backing vocalist, proud owner of a haircut so mind-bogglingly awful that it makes Billy Howle's travesty of a bowl cut in Outlaw King look positively well-advised.
Where Gainsbourg's delicate voice truly captivates the crowd is on her more reflective numbers, often sung from her piano or the murky darkness at the back of the stage. The highlight of the entire show is the song 'Rest' itself, which takes on extra emotional weight when she introduces it by informing the audience that today is the five year anniversary of her sister Kate's tragic death.
Perhaps because of this melancholic state of mind it's the sombre likes of 'Kate', 'I'm A Lie' and a surprisingly natural- sounding cover of Kanye West's 'Runaway' that linger in the mind long after the concert has finished.
Charlotte Gainbourg is already a legend, an effortlessly enticing figure with an ever-growing selection of great tunes (her new track 'Such A Remarkable Day' crackles with energy live). It is truly impressive to think what she will be like after a few more years of shows, strengthening her voice and growing in confidence as a performer.
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Words: Josh Gray
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