Ultra-classy event at the start of the year: on January 24, 2023, Jane Birkin will be on the stage of the Opéra-Comédie, in Montpellier, for “Oh! Pardon, tu dormais…”, the show inspired by her album eponymous, produced with the complicity of Etienne Daho. Before this unique meeting, the immense singer agreed to confide in no detour to Midi Libre.
You are currently in Lyon for the concerts of the Enfoirés in which you had not participated for twenty-five years…
I did quite a bit for Véronique Colucci, whom I loved so much. Afterwards, it became a show with Jean Jacques Goldman, I think, and I was not one of the people who were asked. I was asked to go and open centers or go to television to get the news; what I was doing with joy for the Restos du Coeur and Véronique. Afterwards, I admit that I didn’t know much about this show, I had to watch the tapes that were sent to me to see what it was like today: they are musicals, in fact! It takes a lot of work but it’s great!
So you take pleasure in it?
Lots of fun! Already, it’s a cause for which I have always been very involved, and if what we can do is give a lot of money, then yes! Then, being part of the Enfoirés evening, I’m delighted. Being among the others reminds me of Carpentiers, good times…
Speaking of a good time, let’s talk about your show which has already been with us, at the Théâtre de la Mer and if…
… Yes, it was good, huh, in Sète? But it was cold! There was an icy wind, we didn’t expect it in June!
If we know why we still and always come to see you on stage, what on your side motivates you to keep on touring?
Well, people! it’s always been people! To touch people… I recently did a concert in Oslo where I’m not sure they understand everything I sing, since everything is in French apart from a few songs of mine in English. But the people at the end were so moved, they told me they had never been so moved at a concert. I told myself that to touch people like that, it’s such a chance!
To be able to sing songs like those of Serge, so dense, so much for everyone… On the songs of Melody Nelsonsome in the audience were brandishing vinyls ofMelody Nelson’s Story, it was so pretty! And when at the end I sing Catch me if you canof course, they were moved because everyone had tragedies, everyone had sorrows.
You go back there for the sharing then.
Yes, sorrows, but also smiles! I realize that’s when I’m really happy: when I’m for an hour and a half in front of people, and with them, in a show wonderfully put together by Etienne Daho. I know exactly what I’m doing, I’m very lucky to have the musicians of the record with me on stage Oh ! Sorry, you were sleeping.., so the sound is absolutely impeccable!
It’s already joyful in itself to go on tour with them. It goes by like a letter in the post, it goes so fast, and even if it feels like an evening, I don’t know, without inspiration, you just have to capture a face in the audience to have it in mind, and that’s for this face that we make a success of our concert…
The arrangements on this tour are indeed fantastic, very late sixties, early seventies pop…
Ah, that’s totally Etienne! He wanted me when I had straight hair. He didn’t want to hear about curls and short hair anymore, it sounded too “madam” for him. He wanted me to appear like that on the song Jane B. I guess that’s what he liked about me. It was also daring of him to take the melody of I love you…me neither and transform it into Jane B., it’s a treat, that!
These arrangements harmonize your songs from different eras, and they all ring true!
Yes, absolutely. The set list is really perfect. Etienne started with the new songs from the last disc. He integrated songs from Serge’s album, Melody Nelson’s Story, I love this moment and I know the joy it brings to people. You see them then all smiles, and if you look closely, on The particular hotelthey know the lyrics as well as I do!
And you leave a lot of space for your musicians to express themselves!
They are big personalities! Again, it’s a chance to have them with me. Jean-Louis Piérot composed many of the melodies on the album, Catch me if you can, Ghosts... and he worked on the latest Daho. François Poggio too, he’s someone, on the guitar. I have the originals on stage with me, like in the studio, it’s wonderful.
You talk about Ghosts, it’s true that this concert is full of friendly ghosts…
Yes, I think so… Besides, if I had had a lot of money, I would have liked us to make a cartoon for the song Ghosts that we see the dead leaving the cemetery like the film Fantasia from Disney, that would have been great. But cartoons are very expensive. Finally, it was in this somewhat joyful aspect of meeting people, I told myself that maybe one day the public would sing Ghosts with me, it hasn’t happened yet, but who knows…
The fact that this concert invites us to smile at our ghosts…
Absolutely. When we were preparing the show, Etienne, moreover, had found that a song was missing around which I could talk. He was thinking of Di doo dah. I told him “Oh well no”, and he “Yes, yes, yes! People remember this song, it’s part of your panoply, its joyful side”. He was right. It’s a song that reminds people of their adolescence…
So much so that we come out of this show with an oxymoron feeling of melancholy happiness!
Ah, but I really like what you say there! Yes, that’s it, it’s said perfectly… Etienne prevented me from having a dull and sad nostalgia; what I could have if I had written the songs on my own. Perhaps I would have been tempted to go towards drama, grief…
Some songs from Oh ! Sorry, you were sleeping… are very black. Some memories are bound to be a bit sad. I could have made a record just like that. But no, no, no, he didn’t want to. He wanted there to be life in it. I owe that to Etienne!
But also, if we can allow ourselves, to yourselves: last year, the documentary “Jane by Charlotte” directed by your daughter had remarkably highlighted your natural humor!
I thanked her for that! She allowed me to have a comedic role and that’s all I wanted. But we are given less and less, of course, and when you make a dramatic film, we think that you have definitely changed register. When in fact, everyone is both: we are in a monstrous situation at the hospital, suddenly the stretcher gets stuck in the elevator and we laugh!
Last night, in the perspective of the Caesars, I watched Passengers of the night, with Emmanuelle Béart and Charlotte… who is dazzling in it! It’s so right, perfect, very beautiful. Emmanuelle is very generous but Charlotte, wow, she upsets me, so I’m happy.
Can we hope to see you again at the cinema?
I was offered a role that I dare not do. It was the English who offered it to me. But it’s difficult to put myself in films because you always have to find a reason that justifies my having this accent. In the film, for example, with Yvan Attal (Master(s) Editor’s note), I could have played Pierre Arditi’s wife, after all, but where would I have come from to have this accent. I can’t be part of a normal French family, so I can’t play grandmother, mother, stepmother…
When I was very young, I remember being very sad because all I wanted to do was make this movie called The Return of Martin Guerre (role ultimately held by Nathalie Baye Editor’s note) and I did not understand why I had not been taken. Then I realized that in the Middle Ages, as I was, I would necessarily have been the enemy, I simply couldn’t be in this film! After that, I understood that I shouldn’t squint on the roles but see as a great opportunity those that were offered to me almost tailor-made like the Zidi or in the drama, the Doillon.
We would see you very well in a single on stage!
Oh, no, I would never dare, I respect that a lot! I find it crazy, I loved Bedos but also Zouc, a comic female character without equal! I have a lot of admiration for those who start like that, on their own, but I don’t think I have that talent.
In any case, it was a question of you coming back on the boards?
Yes, but I postponed all that for a year, and that suits me very well, because it allows me to do more concerts!
In your capacity as the favorite Englishman of the French since… always, we have to ask you one last question: what do you think of the British monarchy today?
I believe this continues to bind the English together. During the Covid, the queen was the one who spoke best; in any case, better than Boris Johnson! So as long as it stays like that, it comforts, it helps to get through the bad times, so much the better…
And it’s a great source of income, fiction, debate, gossip, this business! I don’t know what will happen now, but there was great affection for the queen, and for her mother before her, and also for her husband. It is true that a page has been turned with his departure. But I believe that the English still need their royalty, in spite of everything.
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[VIDEO] Jane Birkin in concert in Montpellier: “For an hour and a half, in front of people, I’m really happy!”
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