Camille O’Sullivan Sings Jacques Brel: A live review

❉ Camille’s residency at Wiltons Music Hall in London’s East End is “a rollercoaster of emotion”, writes poet Ange Chan.

Camille O’Sullivan is an Irish national whose love of chanson was inherited from her Irish father and French mother, who used to play the records of Jacques Brel during Camille’s childhood.  She trained and briefly worked as an architect but after a life-changing car crash in 1999 which left Camille severely injured, she decided to embrace life and her love of the chanson genre, and follow her dream to become a professional singer. 

Camille’s regular shows typically consist of cover versions by revered artists such as Tom Waits, Scott Walker, Nick Cave and David Bowie however she is also well-known as one of the foremost interpreters of the works of Jacques Brel. 

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I first saw her Brel show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2015 having travelled there specifically to see her Brel show.  She is one of the most successful Fringe artists ever, earning her the title ‘Queen of the Fringe’ and often selling out Edinburgh’s largest theatre venues for several nights during the Festival. However I’ve seen Camille perform many times prior to that.  The first time was at the Barbican at a show called Carousel which encompassed many other artists performing Jacques Brel’s works including Marc Almond, Arno, Momus, Diamanda Galas and Camille amongst others. I was completely blown away by her performance of Marieke and my love affair with the chanteuse began. 

With her current Brel show, Camille has been performing a brief residency at Wiltons Music Hall in London’s east end. It’s a true hidden gem of theatrical glory which has been undergoing extensive refurbishment works over recent years. It’s the perfect venue for an artist of Camille’s calibre (both being glamorously individual yet full of character) and it was a rare treat to witness her Brel show in such perfectly suited surroundings. 

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Wiltons Music Hall: “A true hidden gem of theatrical glory.

The show was a rollercoaster of emotional turmoil which toyed with your feelings like a cat playing with a ball of wool.  Camille opened with a stunning and tender a capella rendition of Marieke which builds into a strong passionate crescendo and captivated the audience immediately. She then progressed into The Old Folks (Les Vieux) which is a beautiful ballad about spending a lifetime with someone and growing into old familiarity with them.  Soon enough though, the show became a more riotous affair with songs such as Next, The Bulls and Jacky which were delivered with all the bawdy passion they deserve.  Her interpretation of Amsterdam was another song which builds and builds from a quiet scene-setting opening to an energetic frenzy by the climax of the song leaving both her, and you feeling spent by the end of it, in only the way a Brel song delivered with such passion can. 

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Nearly two hours later, the show was over far too soon. However we were to be treated to a trio of gorgeousness in the encore where Camille performed heartfelt tributes to two artists very close to Camille’s psyche; David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul and Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, ending with one of Brel’s tenderest compositions Song for Old Lovers leaving not a dry eye in the house. 

Camille is back in London on 8 April 2017 at the Union Chapel. Mark it in your diary now. You can thank me later. 


❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist.  Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” was published in paperback and ebook earlier this year.  Her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” was also published in paperback and Kindle.

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