Jacques Brel – Olympia ’64 (1964)
Le beau logo est par Sarca @ caughtmegaming
Made in France Artist #1: Manu Chao
Made in France Artist #2: Daft Punk
Made in France Artist #3: Jean Michel Jarre
Made in France Artist #4: Jacques Brel
When seeing an artist perform live, I hope to hear a few things:
1.The artist performing as if this particular concert is significant.
Is there a more disappointing experience than witnessing an artist phoning/mailing it in? Everyone has off nights but when you feel like a performer’s just going through the motions for the paycheque, it’s an awful feeling.
By the sounds of it, on Olympia ’64, Jacques Brel did not phone in a single note. He goes all-in, on all tracks, I appreciate that.
2.An appreciative crowd.
The audience certainly seemed to appreciate it too. They were so impressed by Brel’s vocal performance on the opening track, Amsterdam, they burst into applause before the orchestra’s closing notes. If there’s a ‘how-to’ guide on kicking off a show, that’s how it’s done.
3.Something you can’t necessarily experience by merely listening to the studio albums at home.
It turns out, my three favourite tracks (Amsterdam, Les Timides, Les Jardins du Casino) were never recorded on a studio album. Maybe they wouldn’t have been as effective in that manner? Even still, he released a baker’s dozen of studio albums, impressive that these fine tracks didn’t re-appear on any of them.
There’s a line in the film Good Will Hunting, where Robin Williams’s character challenges Matt Damon’s character, “I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”
While I can never physically be at the Olympia in 1964 (being recorded in Paris prior to my birth presents somewhat of a logistical hurdle), there’s something very vivid about this recording. Perhaps it’s the accordion on the opener, the upper-register piano in Les Timides, or the fine arrangement featuring muted trumpets on Les Jardins du Casino: the audio is somehow very visual.
To say I now feel like I know what the Olympia smelled like would be a stretch, but I certainly feel like the music created the setting nicely and brought me along for the trip.
Though sometimes the trips got interrupted, including on my most recent front-to-back listen while preparing dinner yesterday evening. Partway through the album, my 5-year old daughter looked up from her drawing, smiled, and yelled “FRANÇAIS” promptly taking me out of the Paris concert hall in 1964 and back into our 2016 kitchen.
But considering the reason & manner of the trip interruption, it only enhanced the experience!