Petula Clark Vue d’ici

Petula Clark Vue d’ici

By Daydree Vendette

Petula Clark’s concert at the Salle Albert Rousseau on May 13th was the perfect occasion for the artist to promote her new French-language album Vue d’ici. The album was written in large part by Québecois songwriters and recorded in Montreal.

Petula Clark is an extraordinary singer. And people love her. She is an icon with the kind of career that defies whatever rules govern show business, and choosing to view her as a kind of nostalgia act would do a disservice to the kind of career she’s had and the strength of her artistic ability.

All that being said, the theatre was full but there was an awkward clunkiness to both the audience and Petula. There was the feeling that both the artist and the audience were hoping that the other would pull them out of this heaviness with their energy.

It seemed as though she and her band were out of time. There was a gap of at least a few milliseconds between where she was and where they were, and that gap seemed difficult to close. Petula and her band were also missing rapport on stage. At one point Petula threw her shawl and it landed on the piano and you could see the pianist taken aback. Other interactions between the band members and Petula were pretty scarce, and awkward when it did happen, like when the guitar player played next to Petula center stage. It felt like a convention that she had been obliged follow rather than a natural occurrence.

Did the band not rehearse together with Petula?

There were certain songs that just seemed to click everything into place such as a few French songs as well as “Downtown” and the French version of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita. The conviction in Clark’s voice and the tempos of those songs made everything align in the best way.

Petula Clark is full of charm and she knows how got tell an anecdote.The moments I connected to the most were when she was speaking about her life. Her stories have so much cachet. The big-name collaborations and encounters could fill binders: Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Brel and Charlie Chaplin, to name but a few.

At this point it is a cliché to speak about her age and how impressive it is that she is still touring so I’m going to go a different route and say, that given her experience and her impressive career, the show should have been better rehearsed and the kinks between the band and the singer worked out ahead of time. The artistic direction of the show was kind of non-existent. Perhaps this was done to have the audience concentrate on the music instead of cheap tricks but this type of scenario necessitates self-contained and impeccably-rehearsed performances.

I think she could feel that something was off. And I think the audience was taken aback by the experience. They were looking to lose themselves and all the mechanics were visible and they were all wonky.

In trying to put words to this awkward show,I have scoured the internet in search of biographical information, I have watched documentaries and I have listened to her music.

Despite all the stories, the sense of remove around Petula is still there as though she is still unknowable in some way. I understand that that sounds strange as I quite literally don’t know her nor any other celebrity who lives their life in the public eye for that matter. But the point is that I feel like I do. When I listen to artists of all genres or even when I see them speaking banalities in interviews I can get a sense of who they are.

Petula seems locked behind her façades. There are events and there are facts but the emotion and the physicality of those interactions seems so hard to access which just intrigued me more, given her prolific body of work, her incredible voice and her ability to interpret styles and roles.

Basically watching her show made me want a Madmen-esque series about her life where the unspoken, could be conveyed across the eyes of an expressive actress who was being coached from the sidelines by Petula herself.

I look forward to seeing another Petula Clark show where the attention to detail of the artistic direction matches her performance and where there is a connection with the band. I want to hear more amazing anecdotes and a decade-spanning soundtrack in both French and English. I am looking forward to the next show because I don’t believe for a minute that this was her at her best. It was a one-off hiccup.

Categories: Arts & Culture, News, Reviews

About Author

Daydree Vendette

Daydree Vendette is passionate about all things that spread good vibes like animals, yoga, her rock collection, vegan food and creative expression in all forms. She has a master’s degree in literature and is a nerd searching for a field of study to latch onto next. She works as a technical writer and translator while pursuing other creative projects. She should travel more.

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