Paris : New Morning
Marianne Faithfull, having recently returned to the songs of Kurt Weill (songs that have punctuated a long, unique career) is back once again singing her own songs and covers she makes her own with her indelible and inimitable vocals. It’ll be a surprise to few that she choses to remerge in Paris, given that she has made a home here for nearly a decade and a half. She recently told the Quietus in an interview that she “couldn’t stand to live in Britain,” and it’s this lack of compromise that’s one of the attributes that makes her so compelling. Aged 66 and shall we say, a little tired and emotional this evening, she gives it to us with both barrels.
Faithfull appears in a glamorous black top sparkling like the Hotel de Ville, and commences the set with a rasping rendition of ‘Broken English’, a song from her most celebrated 1979 album of the same name, accompanied only by the guitar of Bill Frisell and some plucked cello in the wings. Marianne says you get more for your money watching a stripped back show like this (sans the band) as it’s ‘like open-heart surgery’. Given the steep ticket prices you’d hope so, though she does look overwhelmed and close to tears on more than one occasion during the set.
Perhaps one surprise is the choice of venue, New Morning on the Rue des Petites Écuries in Port Saint-Denis, the sort of pokey jazz club you can imagine used to be filled with a visible miasma of smoke surrounding the performer like a ring of Saturn. Those days have gone, though Marianne definitely puffs away like its 1979 all over again; cocking a snook at authority is a sure bet to prompt cheers, and so it proves.
She covers Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan’s ‘The Stations’ and forgets who wrote it, and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Tower of Song’ which she calls “the wittiest song I’ve heard for a long time”; she sneezes throughout said song and slurps down tablets with white wine once it’s finished. ‘Why’d You Do It’ is unleashed with the words “prepare to be shocked” though Faithfull qualifies this by saying: “I don’t think you can [be shocked] anymore… we’ve already been there.” Whether one is shocked or not, there’s something arresting hearing a half-sloshed posh lady shamelessly roaring profanity in a public place on a Saturday night.
Loquacious during songs, Marianne talks openly about getting clean before she covers Dylan’s ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine’, saying the song was ‘what I hoped my life would be… and it was. It’s been a great life since then, it really has’. ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ follows, and it’s all too much for her. Wilting under the hot lights and having played a set previously to this one, she complains she’s exhausted and makes for the exit, returning for only a brief encore. If it’s a short set it’s a sweet one, and having been held so close it makes it that bit harder to pull away and return to the frozen Parisian streets.