An Ex-fan des Sixties at La Maison Française

While her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg canceled her January 25th concert at the 9:30 Club, it seems a little bit of snow was not going to scare Jane Birkin! Nor her fans. Despite the 25 or so inches that are still crippling the district, the British chanteuse still performed to a dedicated (and rather large given the circumstances) crowd at La Maison de la France last night.

Though she is British, Jane Birkin is a French icon who rose to fame in the 60s as the woman who not only inspired Serge Gainsbourg but also the designers at Hermès who named one of their bag (le Birkin) after her. Her best known song remains the explicitly erotic duet Je t’aime…moi non plus  performed with then lover Serge Gainsbourg, a song which culminates in simulated orgasm sounds by Birkin.

No simulated orgasm at the French Embassy last night but her former lover was very present nonetheless. I grew up with Serge’s music. My parents were such fans of the late singer-writer-composer that they named me after a song he wrote. I will never have the chance to see him perform live but felt privileged to hear Birkin’s renditions of some of his most classic songs, some of which (Ex-Fan des Sixties for example) were written for her at the time. Jane opened and closed her show with well-known Gainsbourg tunes, and sang a few more throughout: L’Anamour, Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais, L’Eau a La Bouche…

She also managed to sing some of her own songs as well, some that she wrote herself from her album Enfants d’Hiver and some that Alain Souchon had a hand at. As she has for the past four years, she sang a song for Aung San Suu Ky whose cause she has espoused, giving the concert in the United States’ capital a slight but fitting political undertone. Throughout the performance, Jane Birkin addressed the intimate gathering of francophones and francophiles in a mix of English and French, sharing stories about her determination to sight-see despite the weather conditions or reminiscing about the talented men she has had the opportunity to work with. If she can get out of D.C. in the middle of this blizzard, she will also be performing two sold out concerts in at the Alliance Française‘s Florence Gould Hall in New York on Thursday and Friday. Travel safe Jane!

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