Charlotte Gainsbourg caps a big week for the French at Fonda

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Last week was one for the books if you’re French and live in LA.

Sunday saw France win the World Cup. And this past Friday, Los Angeles got a rare (and my research tells me first ever) LA show from art pop icon Charlotte Gainsbourg, blowing away a Fonda Theatre crowd that featured plenty of familiar faces.

BORNS was standing to my right. I heard firsthand that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo from Daft Punk (a collaborator on her latest album) was there, as well as Sharon Van Etten. Though there was a lot for it to compete with on a Friday night, this crowd was the place to be.

Gainsbourg slid into a show at the Fonda Theatre when FYF Fest was cancelled, softening the blow that the city fest wasn’t taking place this year. She made the most of it, delivering one of the best shows I’ve seen this year by far.

I’ll be honest — I’m pretty late to the Charlotte Gainsbourg bandwagon. Her album from last year Rest was highly acclaimed, and that sent me down that rabbit hole. That record gives me Air meets MGMT vibes. There’s some crisp dance tunes mixed in with powerful ballads.

Gainsbourg was surrounded by a talented band that also featured some pretty incredible backup singers who were able to hit some pretty high notes. Together, they created some lush soundscapes that mesmerized the crowd.

One thing became crystal clear from the outset. Gainsbourg has Big Dick Energy, as it has come to be defined. Her cool confidence is evident in her posture — her left hand in her front pocket when standing and singing, and her expressive face when delivering words from behind the piano with her right leg in the air.

On the ballads, Gainsbourg’s enchanting and calming whisper makes me want to try and access it as a preset on a sleep machine.

Gainsbourg pulled primarily from Rest, saying the album and concert was dedicated to her sister Kate, who passed away in 2013 from a tragic fall. It was nearly the only between song banter she exchanged.

One of the crowd favorites was the cinematic disco tune “Sylvia Says”, a song that featured such an incredible build at the end. It had a drop that would put most EDM DJs to shame.

Gainsbourg’s encore featured a stirring piano cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway”, followed by the classic “Lemon Incest” — a song Gainsbourg recorded with her father Serge as a child.

Friday night was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime show that makes living in LA such a special joy. Hopefully it isn’t too long before we get another chance to see Charlotte Gainsbourg out here.

Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold