Micheline Sings Brel
A splendid, if over-sanitised take on the Belgian singer
This article is from 2013.
A Belgian in a bowler hat singing Brel in the divine decadence of the cabaret tent where Jacques himself performed. What could be more authentic? And there is no question that Micheline Van Hautem possesses one splendid set of pipes, with a powerful lungs to back them up. But there is an off-note here that has nothing to do with these hugely impressive interpretations of her countryman’s songbook.
She greets us warmly, recalls previous shows and tells us that she now has two baby boys. Good news, yes, but the cosy family catch-up jars with the gutter-dwellers and debauchees who people her repertoire. Her request that we tweet her while she changes dress leaves the pensioners in the audience bemused.
The songs are mostly fantastic (although crawling over the piano and ramping up the sexy is a jarring juxtaposition). The sweetest end of her range is particularly enchanting, a Brel we rarely hear. When she lets off the fireworks, the synapses vibrate. At best it is utterly delicious.
In ‘Au Suivant’, a soldier smells of smoke, garlic and gin. That is what’s missing from this show. Micheline smells of Waitrose.
The Famous Spiegeltent, 0844 693 3008, until 25 Aug (not Mondays), 7pm, £13–£15.