BREL – The Words and Music of Jacques Brel is coming to Auckland Town Hall (Concert Chamber) from Thursday 1st – 24 November.
Friend of Cheese on Toast and Muzai Records head-honcho, Benjii Jackson, wrote us this introduction to Jacques Brel as a kind of prequel to this theatre event…
Typical that I would start any musical piece for Cheese on Toast with a Nirvana video; I’m that predictable in those respects.
But what you are watching isn’t some secret missing song that is about to be released on another anthology of “unearthed” demos. Instead, you’re watching a song that’s roots chart back to one of music’s most influential figures; Jacques Brel. It’s not the first time this song has been covered either – it came to fame (or infamy, pending on your persuasion); Terry Jacks made the song notable back in 1973, while a host of other artists (including Blink 182 and Me First and The Gimme Gimmes, god forbid) have all covered Brel’s “Le Moribond” – known to many of us as “Seasons in the Sun” upon it’s translation.
The third best selling Belgian recording artist of all time (five million more than Plastic Bertrand – enjoy), Brel’s status as one of the pioneering chanson’s of musical history have seldom been ignored by the industry – it’s hard to champion Brel as an “unheralded genius of the musical landscape” when you realize just the length and breadth his work has managed to span, even up to present day. What does seem to be lost in translation though is where the originals stem from – and realising that, low and behold, Jacque Brel did that first.
Ah yes – to hear a modern musician perform “Season in the Sun” in its original tongue. Perhaps one of the most well known songs from Brel’s catalog, Beirut’s version maintains the authenticity of the original work, which was less the sombre, slowed, almost soft-rock anthem it’s become (and in some cases voted as one of the worse songs ever written – killjoys), and more the gallivanting, upbeat, spritely European cabaret movement.
Regina Spektor, in her quirky charm, did an English speaking cover of this earlier this year for her album What We Saw In The Cheap Seats; it’s one of Brel’s frequently covered compositions, translated into English (“Please Don’t Leave Me”) and performed by the likes of Bic Runga (apparently), Ray Charles, Marianne Faithful… second only to “Amsterdam” is the overreaching appeal of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” – and true to her hallowed fashion, Nina Simone decided to tackle the song in it’s European tongue, capturing it’s heart-wrenching beauty.
It would be foolish not to include an Amanda Palmer cover of perhaps the king of Brel’s work; it summarizes pretty much that European, cabaret flair you can no doubt expect from Silo’s Brel, as it plays at the Auckland’s Concert Chamber in November. Palmer’s always been part Brecht, part Vile and part Brel; brimming with those old-school characteristics, be it solo or as part of The Dresden Dolls. Brel’s ode to the sailors who partake in what’s on offer at the port of Amsterdam is one of his more objective compositions – borrowing (sampling they call it these days, right?) from “Greensleeves” quite liberally. This happened to also be one of David Bowie’s party favorites – it’s appeared on at least five releases of his throughout time.
Daz Dillinger sampled “Amsterdam” also – thus showing it’s not just the typical singer/songwriter whom draw from Brel.
Other Songs that have sampled from Brel:
- sampling “Vieillir”
- sampling “Les Marquises”
- sampling “Au Suivant”
PRESS RELEASE :
BREL the words and music of Jacques Brel
Directed by Michael Hurst. Musical Direction by Leon Radojkovic.
STARRING Jon Toogood, Julia Deans, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Tama Waipara
Silo is thrilled to announce the theatrical debut of two of New Zealand’s most revered musicians: Jon Toogood and Julia Deans, as they pay homage to the great JACQUES BREL, playing Auckland’s mighty Concert Chamber from 1 November.
Toogood and Deans are joined by celebrated singer/songwriter Tama Waipara and perhaps New Zealand’s First Lady of cabaret: the distinguished Jennifer Ward-Lealand. Four extraordinary music talents interpreting the genius that is Brel. Songs which tell stories about how life hurts, youth dies, understanding heals, love warms. His narratives portray people who are unwilling, in spite of all that they experience, to abandon either the joy of life or the hope that makes life worth living.
Along with a live four-piece band, this all-star cast set the stage for Silo’s cabaret noir; an atmosphere reminiscent of those smoky, dimly lit underground bars in New York and Berlin where the music flows as effortlessly as the old school charm and swagger.
Jacques Brel has long been considered a major influence in modern music; a revolutionary artist selling over 25 million records worldwide. His music, rich in mid-20th century European sensibility, remains timeless to this day – and its dark, sardonic, witty, style has been covered by hallowed musicians such as Cohen, Bowie, Sinatra, Simone, Wainwright… the list is near endless. If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas) has been covered by over 60 different recording artists worldwide since it was first written in 1959.
Silo’s love affair with Brel isn’t new. In 2005, the company’s celebration of his work, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, sparked a box office frenzy and became one of the most successful productions in their history.
Things are a little different this time around, however. BREL is a new show created from scratch by Silo, with the songs carefully selected by the company. These timeless anthems brim with flair, attitude and heart-on-your-sleeve expressionism. As rearranged by the accomplished Leon Radojkovic, they become unique musical mash-ups, delivered live by members of “Balkan music titans” Dr. Colossus. The sheer musical poetry of each song supports layers of interpretation, and with this production Silo aims to reinterpret the songs for a contemporary audience.
Iconic talent Michael Hurst brings his seasoned theatrical experience to the directing chair, as Silo boasts perhaps its most eclectic and astounding collection of performers to grace the stage of a New Zealand theatre. Housed in the alluring confines of the historic Concert Chamber, table service and cabaret seating provide the ultimate group indulgence.
This is Brel’s kaleidoscope of lives lived. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be decadent. It’s going to be true.
“When you write a song, most of the words you use are in black and white, and then, from time to time, you use one that’s in colour. These words in colour are a part of ourselves, because we give them a meaning. If you like, we give them a third dimension.” JACQUES BREL
November 1st – 24th 2012
Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, CBD
Monday – Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm
OPEN DIALOGUE: Monday 5th November, 6pm
Tickets: $25.00 – $59.00 (service fees apply)
Tickets available through THE EDGE – 0800 BUY TICKETS or www.buytickets.co.nz