Mick Harvey: Intoxicated Man – Presenting the songs of Serge Gainsbourg
Review – Geoff Jenke
Serg Gainsbourg, singer, songwriter, pianist, film composer, poet, painter, screenwriter, actor, writer, and director is regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music.
Mick Harvey is best known as an ex member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds but also singer, songwriter, composer, arranger and record producer in his own right.
This evening the two worlds collided. Mick is no stranger to the works of Serge Gainsbourg, having released four solo albums of Gainsbourg songs.
Mick entered the stage stylishly dressed in a grey suit and a black shirt, elegantly 30 minutes late. He was accompanied by 4 “old men” who proceeded to play the song Requiem in what felt like a very relaxed fashion. The Ticket Puncher followed before the stage numbers were swelled by the arrival of 6 young ladies to help the band with violins, vocals and guitar. The sound of Song of Slurs sounded like it was backed by an orchestra.
During the 90-minute show, members of the band wandered on and off stage as needed. The vocals of the two backing singers, Sophia Brous and Xanthe White were wonderful, however a problem with the bass amplifier caused a few problems at times.
After the song New York USA, Mick told us it was exhausting to play that song. He then followed it up with one of the highlights of the evening, sung by solo by Sophia, The Eyes to Cry, originally recorded by Nana Mouskouri. Simply stunning performance.
While the original performances of most of these songs were sung in French, Mick has translated the songs to English. His attempt at some French was welcomed by a small group of obviously French people at the back of the hall. Deadly Tedium was forewarned with “This is a very boring song about being bored. It is a boring song”. No Mick, it wasn’t boring.
Bonnie and Clyde bought a resounding applause from the audience and A Day Like Any Other was perfectly wonderful with Xanthe on vocals. The music behind Don’t Say a Thing had a lush feel to it, enhancing the vocals effectively.
The encore started with a song and a “We have never played live before”. The song was All Day Suckers, and despite originally being sung by a female (France Gall) back in the sixties, Mick claimed he was “modern man” and wouldn’t ask any of the ladies to sing it as it was about fellatio. Well done Mick.
The final song of the evening was I Envisage with a hard driving sound that was building up to an apocalyptic ending. There was no better song to finish the show.
The whole evening had a slight under rehearsed feel about it, but maybe that is the way Mick Harvey works. However, this didn’t take away the quality of the show. The performers were magnificent and the songs delightful. With the song being short (it was the sixties, man) we got 25 tunes during the 90 minutes.
Thank you, Mick, for introducing me to Serge Gainsbourg and also to yourself as a solo artist. I will be delving deeper into both.