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Music Review

Julien Clerc Shows What French Know About Pop

May 03, 1999|DON HECKMAN

Singer Julien Clerc, a headliner in France for decades, is virtually unknown to American audiences--a telling reflection of the insularity of pop music. And that's a shame, because Clerc's performance at the Ford Amphitheatre on Friday night, before a packed house of Francophiles, was an impressive indication of what we've been missing.

At 52, Clerc is still an almost-boyish figure bearing a slight visual (but not musical) resemblance to Bruce Springsteen. Working with a bare minimum of accompaniment--a keyboardist, a guitarist and his own piano--he cruised through a mix of material, some of it hits of his own (such as "Femmes, Je Vous Aime"), some of it classic French repertoire ("Maintenant" and "Hymne a l'Amour," known in the U.S. in its English version, "If You Love Me").

Clerc's presentation followed the familiar path of Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour and Yves Montand. But his musical perspective was considerably broader, with remarkably colorful musical settings encompassing bits and pieces of samba, reggae, rock and country music.

The only problem with his program was the failure to include (with one brief exception) any English-language lyrics. Given his charm and sheer charisma, it's hard to understand why Clerc, in his live performances and recordings, has not made a greater effort to reach a potentially receptive English-speaking audience.

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