Martha Wainwright sings Edith Piaf
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
February 10, 2011
Martha Wainwright: Champagne
First, note to self: before spending the night listening to French songs, brush up on my French.
It's tough to write a review of Martha Wainwright without mentioning her musical genealogy. She is the daughter of musician and actor Loudon Wainwright and folk musician Kate McGarrigle (half of the famous Canadian folk duo Anna and Kate McGarrigle) and her brother is musician Rufus Wainwright. This may suggest that she is the beneficiary of some musical nepotism rather than earning her success through individual talent. In fact, if anything, it's the opposite. MW is the beneficiary of a talented gene pool and may actually be the best of the bunch. She is a terrific singer and songwriter.
For the non-francophile, Edith Piaf was a French singer and cultural icon, widely regarded as France's greatest popular singer. She lived a typical French life, born to a cafe singer and street acrobat and raised for a time by her grandmother who was the madam of a brothel. Before being discovered, she sang on Paris street corners while her father performed. Just like all the French. Still, it's no wonder that MW might be drawn to the songs of a street performer from a minstrel family.
I also feel compelled whenever reviewing a show at the Great American Music Hall to mention what a fantastic venue it is. So, I just did.
Martha's songs of Edith were accompanied by piano and stand-up bass which definitely captured the Parisian cafe vibe. The only thing missing for MW was a jaunty beret. In the middle of the set, Martha pulled out her guitar and played a small collection of her own songs before returning to EP which was a nice break. Still, her updated takes on Piaf were tasteful and well-done and I found made the French chanteuse much more accessible. It was a really nice evening of quality and class.
Since MW's EP LP is not available in the US (why is that?), you'll have to check out these vids: A promotional video for the LP, Le Brun et la Blond, Une enfant.