Whilst Camille O’Sullivan has in recent years included songs by modern artists such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails in her always-captivating live shows, she has always kept room for a few chansons by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.
This year, in a short residency at the Queen’s Hall, she devotes a whole night to them. This is Camille literally back to her roots: as she explains that the songs of Brel were a constant companion to her when she was growing up as a child, with their fatalistic tales of loves won and lost resonating with her at a deep emotional level.
And tonight, she lets that emotion flood out in an electrifying and impassioned wave, leaving a stunned audience in the wake of a powerhouse performance.
Unaccompanied, as she is in the heartbreaking loss of Marieke or the lust-choked Amsterdam, Camille is bewitching, a single flame lighting up the melancholic darkness. When backed by her band of accomplished musicians, her voice soars above the music, whether in a crackling rendition of Jacky or in a bold and bloody take on The Bulls.
But it is in the doomed romanticism of the likes of Ne Me Quitte Pas or the stripped-bare honesty of Chanson Des Vieux Amants where Camille truly excels. Here, her voice describes all the emotion packed into every phrase, her on-stage gestures plucking out imagined lovers’ hearts and wringing them dry.
As her popularity has grown, Camille has evolved as an artist since her first appearances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as has her repertoire. However, as tonight amply proves, sometimes it’s the old ones which are the best.