2019 Fringe Festival Review: Mick Harvey: “Intoxicated Man” – Presenting the Songs of Serge Gainsbourg

Who: Mick Harvey
Where: Elder Hall at RCC Fringe, University of Adelaide
When: 14th of March

Former Bad Seed Mick Harvey took to the stage on Thursday night to perform the songs of Serge Gainsbourg, as covered in his albums Intoxicated Man and Intoxicated Woman. Harvey’s interest in Gainsbourg dates back to the late 80’s, and I was interested in seeing (and hearing) how the often poppy and lush qualities of Gainsbourg’s music would mesh with the style of Harvey’s other collaborations.

It did, and key was a common appreciation of lyric driven songwriting. The sonic dynamism of later Nick Cave albums isn’t there, but what comes through is an appreciation of a well-placed witty lyric, the rhythm of their delivery and the contrast of vulgarity amongst a smooth musical backdrop – all of which should sound familiar to a Nick Cave fan.

The show was also a great chance to get better acquainted with Gainsbourg’s music, so I was disappointed that the acoustics of the venue made the translated-from-French lyrics hard to decipher at times, but this prompted a listen through the albums since. Harvey didn’t hide his dissatisfaction with some of the technical difficulties throughout the set and I initially wasn’t sure what to make of this dynamic.

In retrospect, it was the first show in a run of one so the foibles that are usually ironed out were to be expected. The smiles and dry humour that eventually came out on stage fed into Harvey probably being a pretty dry guy, and created an intimate rehearsal room vibe that was thoroughly enjoyable.

3/5 stars
-Tin Do

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