Friday, April 6, 2012

When Jane Birkin Sang Serge Gainsbourg, via Japan, in San Francisco

The best event of last year, for me, took place on December 2nd, 2011. (It's been a busy year so far, so I'm just posting about it now :)) As a late birthday present from my husband (my birthday is actually Sept. 29) I went to see Jane Birkin performing live & in person in San Francisco. The show was at the Regency Ballroom & it was called 'Serge Gainsbourg and Jane via Japan.' 
Here's the foreword for the show, from her website.

"Why do another tour, another concert? Well, when it was going to be conventional, I too wondered why I was singing Serge again, even if it was celebrating the 20 years after Serge's death, even if it was a very personal 40 years since "Melody Nelson" but what did I have to offer... I'd done it all before, Serge in pop, arabesque, classic quator, 14 musicians, 6 musicians, a harp, a squeeze box, violins... this year others have started, their "Serge" was a new point of view, their interpretations... so I started contemplating, putting it all off...

Then there was the Japanese disaster ... of unbelievable horror, earthquake, tsunami, and then the ghasly news of the nuclear horror...What to do? I have known these people for forty years... "go there" I thought... tell them that back home folk are thinking of them, but get there, "and do what ?" What can I do? ...the only thing I can do... a concert... So this is the immediate result of that concert, Sachiko had fixed up the best Japanese group of musicians in four days! "I'm coming to Tokyo" we were Friday, by Monday I was there... When Gluzman asked if I wanted to do the concerts for Serge in America... I said "yes, BUT with these Japanese musicians. I had found my reason... Here we come... Serge Gainsbourg and Jane via Japan"

I didn't realize how overwhelming it might be for me, seeing Ms. Birkin, (who happens to be the namesake of my cat, Jane, a.k.a. Mary Jane Goodnight -- named for Mary Tyler Moore, Birkin & Bond girl Mary Goodnight) from that close proximity. 
We were lucky enough to be seated in the very front row. The show was beyond anything I could have expected in its tastefulness, simplicity and musicality. The choice of Gainsbourg songs that made the lineup were impeccable. It was a solid and stoic production in every sense. It was easy to feel the profound love and the respect that went into the entire project. Her singing voice has never sounded better. Jane Birkin has aged in a way that one can only aspire to. And she looked natural and gorgeous, a true testament to how a woman can age gracefully and remain true to Her Self. 

It was also a unique experience for me to see one of my personal idols –– in person. And despite the infinite Birkin references in today's media –– her style, the movies, the music, the Hermes bag, her relationship with Gainsbourg –– this was Jane Birkin, a woman who was intriguing long before the general public knew about her. 
Her first marriage was to John Barry, after all, when she was extremely young. I can never understand how that isn't more telling about her natural charms than her relationship and collaborative efforts with Gainsbourg. To be married to (not one, but two of) music's greatest geniuses is a feat not even the most famous women have achieved. Short of seeing someone like Francoise Hardy perform, or to be in the presence of the dearly departed Audrey Hepburn (I've mourned her passing since the day it happened, in 1993), this was the closest I could have been –– or might ever be –– to one of my female idols. I have actually felt this woman's influence on my soul, so I had to hold back tears a great deal throughout the show. 

Prior to the show, I was so excited, anticipating how it would feel to see this living legend, one of my idols, in person.
At the Regency Ballroom, prior to Jane Birkin's performance
When it was over, it took everything I had not to rush over to her so that she could hug me. I felt like she should hug me, not the other way around. Strange but true. And I felt elated.
Then I realized I had developed a headache from the pressure of holding back tears. She was so lovable. The entire room was in love with her. My husband bought tickets for the Jane Birkin show to be nice to me & went along knowing how much it would mean to me... He never expected to enjoy the show as much as he did. I know he didn't expect to feel such adoration for this bubbly, unique woman with her indescribably palpable presence. She still prances and smiles in her special way. She's still the same Jane Birkin she's always been.
I have some great footage from the show and I'll update this post with some clips soon. Meanwhilehere are some photos from the evening –– along with a video I found from a fellow attendee.
Jane Birkin at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco
Jane Birkin performing in San Francisco


  1. May I ask who took the first picture ? :)

  2. I believe it was Tony Frank. He took quite a lot of photos of Birkin & Gainsbourg around the time of Melody Nelson, as well as taking the photos for the album.