The sardonic, wise and intensely emotive songs of this influential Belgian composer and performer still ring in the air, thanks to this show that introduced Brel to many American listeners in 1968, a decade before his untimely death at age 49.
A born storyteller, his odes are often compressed mini-dramas and often mused in a world-weary but uncynical fashion on the rapture and agony of love. But he also addresses the madness and waste of war — both world wars, and the French and U.S. military wars in Vietnam. Brel’s fever-grade ballads about love’s vagaries have been widely covered by artists from Judy Collins and Frank Sinatra to David Bowie.
This show is an intoxicating musical revue that is naughty, funny, dark, and romantic. Over half a century after they were written, Brel’s songs retain their edgy vibe in a show The New York Times called “a potent mixture of romanticism and cynicism, world-weariness and jaunty whimsy.”