How it’s New York: Camille O’Sullivan performed at the Irish Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen
How it’s Irish: O’Sullivan is half Irish and half French and was raised in Cork
The mesmerizing cabaret performer Camille O’Sullivan delighted audiences in October with an intimate, five-night tribute, Camille O’Sullivan Sings Jacques Brel. She grew up listening to the Belgian Brel who had a new style of storytelling. “He blew people away,” she said admiringly. In the program notes for the show she explained that “Brel is the reason I’m a singer today—I essentially ended my career as an architect to become a performer after falling in love with singing his music.”
On the penultimate night of the run, O’Sullivan was dressed all in black, including a black lace veil, but her sparkly silver boots added a pop of colour.
As she walked up to the stage she stroked a number of audience members’ heads, including mine.
Awaiting her were trusty white, plastic rabbit, familiar to anyone who has seen her before, and her band, also dressed all in black.
She was backed by her longtime collaborator pianist Feargal Murray, drummer Paul Byrne, guitarist Andrew Zinsmeister and
Charlotte Glasson on flute, violin, saxophone and musical saw.
She kicked things off with an a capella version of Marieke, followed by a rousing Vezoul that brought the band boisterously to life. Her voice was a half rasp, half shout.
She came back out to the audience and caressed my face and others.
“Brel is the reason I’m a singer today”
O’Sullivan always enjoys sharing with the crowd in between songs and showed her particular love for the Irish Arts Center, affectionately admitting that being there
“is like being in a favourite cat basket.”
There’s always an element of the kooky/zany and odd at her shows. At one point she was breathing heavily and said, “Sometimes you forget the lyrics and have to catch up. It’s a live show,” she added with a grin.
Later she put on a pink animal head, sat down and laughed.
“I need a proper living.”
She said that “Brel is the reason I’m a singer today.”
There were Brel classics like Amsterdam, Ne Me Quitte Pas, Jackie and my favourite, Carousel that had the stage lit up as she twirled and spun about the stage. She closed out the show asking if we wanted to hear one more then exclaimed,
“Oh my God let me rest! I’m on truth serum now. I might even tell my age. Or maybe not.”
Her encore was dedicated to musicians we’ve lost in the last year: David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. She sang Bowie’s Five Years and Cohen’s Anthem.