REVIEW: Liane Foly and Hervé Noirot at Crazy Coqs

Hervé Noirot (left) and Liane Foly
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney
Liane Foly and Hervé Noirot
(Crazy Coqs. 21 March 2019. First night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The Lyon-born singer Liane Foly is certainly no shrinking violet. In the manner of, say, Liza Minelli, she has that way – with her musical and powerful voice – of grabbing a song firmly by the lapels… or aiming lower.

Last night at Crazy Coqs (the first night of two) she sang a combination of her own songs, one jazz standard (The Man I Love) and songs from some of the big names of chanson – Trenet, Aznavour (Hier Encore), Gilbert Bécaud (Et Maintenant), Sacha Distel. But whatever the repertoire, whether jazz, chanson, her own songs or pop/varieté, the common thread is that the passion, the intensity of the steely and experienced trouper are unmistakable.

She mentioned last night that her musical career has now spanned 45 years, putting out 14 albums in her own name. The range of material she has covered is very broad, and I found some parts of it easier to take than others. But I know I will never forget one moment. That classic 1962 song Le Cinéma, words by Claude Nougaro to music by Michel Legrand, is an invitation to a singer to really sock it to an audience. Foly’s version of it was raunchy, visceral, totally overpowering. Her pianist was Hervé Noirot, always capable of matching Foly’s levels of energy, derring-do and sass.

Their way of approaching Trenet’s Que reste-t-il de nos amours was to remove all the wistfulness of the original and treat it as a hard-swung and scattable jazz standard. She tends to think in short phrases and emotional volte-faces rather than letting a song unfold, although her version of George Michael’s I Can’t Make You Love Me was a rare exception to that rule: it had a more cumulative and more satisfying shape and arc.

French singers tend to work at the persona, the ‘branding’. So whereas Barbara would ham up the misery, for example at the mere sight of the sky over Nantes, Foly’s persona, as characterized by her most successful song to date, Au fur et à mesure, is to semaphore sexuality. One repeated stanza in it goes like this:

Et de tes mains / Tu vas me décolleter / Me décacheter / Et me déshabiller / Au fur et à mesure
(And with your hands / you’re going to unhook me / unseal me / undress me / as things progress)

Not exactly what you’d call subtle, the way she sings; and possibly with a bit of reverb in the sound mix to help (?), she achieved the very rare feat of making the tiny basement room in Sherwood Street feel like a stadium. This was a constantly fascinating, if not always comfortable evening.

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