Given that former supermodel/French first lady Carla Bruni’s musical career began a little over 10 years ago with the release of 2003’s Quelqu’un m’a dit, it’s hard to believe that she’s only just gotten around to playing her first live solo show in Los Angeles three albums later. True, she’s more of a household name overseas, but the use of “Quelqu’un m’a dit” in the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack brought her more than a fair amount of Stateside exposure, and a decent number of French-speaking musicians have been making waves over here (Yelle, anyone?).
Franglish echoed throughout The Luckman in the minutes leading up to Carla Bruni’s set, which was in support of her latest release, 2013’s Little French Songs. Her still-enviable figure clad in a sharp cherry blazer emerged on stage along with the opening notes of “Déranger les pierres” being played by her two-man band. Upon finishing the song, Carla smiled and spoke softly into her microphone with her très adorable French accent, “I cannot believe you all came to see me.”
Much of the 24-song set featured video footage of Bruni in the background and track introductions from the artist. “Le plus beau du quartier,” she said, “is about a girl pretending to be a boy,” while “Dolce francia” featured lyrics sung in Bruni’s native Italian, the country she emigrated to France from when she was a young girl. These little interludes made for a show that had a certain intimate quality to it, almost as if Bruni were singing to each audience member in his or her living room despite the fact that she was actually performing to a packed auditorium.
The backing pianist busted out the melodica for one of my favorite songs of Bruni’s, “Raphaël.” When introducing “Mon Raymond,” she stated that the track was about a certain special someone who remain unnamed, but it was very clearly a reference to her husband, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. I was particularly fond of the live rendition of “Le temps perdu,” though the track that garnered the most vocal reaction from the crowd was undoubtedly the first set’s closer, “Quelqu’un m’a dit,” during which the crowd, which had been silently enchanted up to that point, sang a few lyrics from the song.
In the break preceding the encore set, I noticed several people getting up to take pictures of what I thought was the crowd. It wasn’t until the last tick of the metronome used in the closing song, “La dernière minute,” that I realized that her husband was sitting in the row directly in front of mine, supporting his wife. Uh yeah, for those of you who managed to get a shot of the former président français, I apologize for any awkward faces I may have been making in your photo.
Much like the persona she builds on stage, Bruni was approachably amicable backstage following the show despite being flanked by an entourage of private security. When I mentioned that I had been listening to her for close to a decade now, she spoke of how much it meant to her that girls in America could listen and relate to her music. Even her husband, whom I’m accustomed to seeing stone-faced on CNN or CSPAN, was all smiles. Then again, he’s married to Carla Bruni.
Speaking of her music, it’s worth noting that Bruni nailed it live. She slipped into the role of chanteuse last Saturday with the same ease she would a Yves Saint Laurent dress from her modeling days 20 years ago. Though her songs are generally quite simplistic in nature, her folksy melodies and husky voice beautifully convey the various facets of love. Even those who don’t speak a lick of French can get a sense of the sentiments she conveys simply by listening to the tone of her melodies.
If you, like me, were at The Luckman last Saturday, you know that the evening was positively enchanting. If you weren’t, you’d best scoop up tickets to Carla Bruni’s next gig, whenever that may be. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another 11 years for her to return to LA.
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