Jane Birkin

Sat, 16. 2. 2008 - 20:00
Archa Theatre


Jane Birkin’s career has taken her many places these last few years, but no-one can say she's been going round in circles. Her work with North African musicians threw a new light on Serge Gainsbourg’s songs written for her giving then a startling new perspective; she travelled content to go where her voice took her, to lap up new sensations. And then life caught up with her, wiping out much of her past and the figures so closely associated with it.

With Rendez-Vous (2004), her already-famous album of duets with Franćoise Hardy, Bryan Ferry, Etienne Daho, Brian Molko, Miossec and Beth Gibbons, to name a few, Jane Birkin tried to find her own harmony in the harmonies of others. But Rendez-Vous ultimately fell short of the mark, left her halfway between herself and others, between France and England. Suddenly she felt the need to “go home”, and it’s with these words, in the uneasy equilibrium they strike between two languages divided even by common meanings, that she explains herself best: “The starting point for the record was “Home” by Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy), and that was it more or less, going home. And then hell, I said to myself why? for whom? My mother’s dead, My father’s dead. What am I doing? I avoid Chelsea, even the whole of Kensington. It’s off limits, like a crime scene. It’s all taped up to stop me from going any further back to my childhood I don’t want to check to make sure it isn’t there. From now on I’ll stick to areas I don’t know.”

Naturally enough for an artist set on following her feelings, Fictions ended up as something quite different. Never lacking in imagination when it comes to tasting life’s fruits, Jane Birkin has conjured up a palette of moods, for one of her best talents is the ability to make the songs of others her own. In the past it wasn’t just a case of Gainsbourg speaking through her voice, for she inspired him to the point that what he wrote was what she wanted to hear. With Fictions‚ and for excellent reasons simply because they’re her own‚ she’s been careful to assemble an impressive line-up of songwriters including Neil Hannon, Beth Gibbons, Rufus Wainwright, Arthur H and Dominique A: each a willing knight at her service, their songs interleaved with cover of Neil Young classic. All under the aegis of producers Renaud Letang and Gonzales, orchestrators of the acclaimed Rendez-Vous. Birkin’s voice nestles with a sweetness rarely achieved in the past, among deceptively fragile arrangements which are set off by the likes of ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr (and Marr doesn’t take out his axe for just anyone these days) Bryan Ferry, or the Pet Shop Boys.

Jane Birkin puts a lot of herself in Fictions: more than enough to keep pleasing her fans on both sides of the Channel. Home for Birkin is neither France nor England now, but the hearts of those who love her: “I’ve been a displaced person for most of my life and it’s a bit impertinent to try to find out if I’ll be received as just another singer. I needed to go and see. It’s strange being part of other people’s lives. Sometimes you feel like sailing without a compass. This record started out with a destination, but in the end it changed into an adventure that brought me back to where I am."