Charlotte Gainsbourg | Pop review

Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Known here primarily as an actor, Charlotte Gainsbourg is a platinum-selling pop star in her native France, having recorded her notorious debut hit, the inflammatory 1985 duet Lemon Incest, with her father and national icon Serge, when she was just 12 years old. Artists have been keen to work with the fruit of Serge's lascivious loins ever since. Her 2006 album 5:55 saw her collaborate with Air, Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon; and last year's IRM was almost entirely written and produced by Beck.

Beck's degree of artistic control over that project has inevitably led to comparisons with the artist-muse relationship enjoyed by Serge and his wife Jane Birkin, but their offspring appears very much her own woman. In leather trousers and waistcoat, Gainsbourg looks every inch the elfin Gallic rock chick as she mooches around stage between her five-piece band. Like her mother's, Gainsbourg's singing is breathy and sometimes flat, but she has charisma in spades. Live, she transforms the typical Beck mix'n'match musical collage of the IRM album into propulsive rock songs.

Her understated charm is particularly effective on the title track, a song about the MRI scans she underwent after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage caused by a 2007 water-skiing accident. She plays a strangely eclectic set, veering from a husky croon through Dylan's Just Like a Woman to the T.Rex-lite glam stomp of Dandelion, yet it always holds the attention. The crowd, packed with expats, whoops when she closes with two Serge covers, L'Hôtel Particulier and Café Couleur, but Charlotte Gainsbourg escaped her father's illustrious shadow long ago.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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