MICK HARVEY: “INTOXICATED MAN” – Presenting the Songs of Serge Gainsbourg

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mick Harvey – former seed in Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, producer, songwriter  – has been celebrating the songbook of Serge Gainsbourg for nearly 25 years. In 1995 he released the first installment – Intoxicated Man – of what has become a 4 album journey that also includes in the set: Pink Elephants (1997), Delerium Tremens (2016) and Intoxicated Woman (2017).


As part of the Adelaide Fringe, Harvey brought this journey to life with a consummate ensemble of musicians that included J.P. Shilo, Dan Luscombe, Glenn Lewis, Hugo Cran, guest vocalists and a string section.


This is not a purist rendition of these canonised songs. These are Gainsbourg’s songs but it’s definitely Harvey’s show. The lyrics have been translated into English for one. Which – for native English speakers – unlocks all the pillow talk, the innuendo, the double entendres, the cheekiness, and at times, the pure unhinged naughtiness. Not that understanding the lyrics in the past was a true negative in an English-speaking cocktail party. Cool tunes, French, Serge – it just added to the mystique really.  


But it does work as well in English, often sung with an Australian tone, as it does in French. That’s interesting.


Cool is the operative word it comes to Gainsbourg. You can play one of his albums in any part of world and immediately infuse that space with a bohemian, sophisticated, edgy, cool vibe. His music makes you drink another cocktail. Drop a witty comment. Make a smooth move on the prettiest or most handsome person in the room.  It is the musical cocaine for a fondue swingers party.


Gainsbourg was one of those creative creatures where their life story becomes indelibly entwined with their art. He was a productive, creative polymath: Songwriter, pianist, poet, painter, writer, actor, director and cultural provocateur. His body of work stands on it’s own.


But, his on display personal life – brace yourself for the biggest understatement you will read this year – was impressively complicated.


It’s no accident that the promotional poster for this tour is Harvey at a bar.


The black and white photographs of Gainsbourg anaesthetising himself in a bar, with a cigarette looking at you with his big expressive eyes, whilst processing one of life’s infinite combinations of grief, are iconic and speak to us all directly. It’s no longer just a French thing. It’s a human thing. In some shade and degree, we have all been there, in that place.


In the concert Harvey took his audience through the rich and wonderful terrain that is Gainsbourg’s catalogue. He also created something new and relevant as Parisian Yé-yé collided with the Melbournian alternative scene. There will be times in our lives when we will check into that bar again. There is some comfort knowing that Serge will always be there with us.


Concert playlist:


The Ticket Puncher

The Song of Slurs

69 Erotic Year

Sex Shop

Intoxicated Man

Harley Davidson

New York USA

The Eyes to Cry

Coffee Colour

Scenic Railway

The Barrell of my 45

Deadly Tedium

Bonnie & Clyde

Run from Happiness

Puppet of Wax

A Day Like Any Other

Overseas Telegram

Ford Mustang

The Sun Directly Overhead

Don’t Say a Thing

Initials B.B

All Day Suckers

The Javanaise


I Envisage


You can see Mick Harvey on his Intoxicated Man tour at the following places/dates:

March 29 – Spiegeltent, Hobart 6:30pm

March 31 – Castlemaine Festival, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine 3:15pm

April 3 – Spiegeltent, Canberra 6:30pm

April 5 – Nocturnal, Melbourne Museum 10pm (with Harry Howard’s NDE, Gemini 4, Primo, Ti Amo 3 and film programs and the whole Museum open from 6:30 – 11pm)

What’s your favourite Serge Gainsbourg song?

Tabarnak: A Canadian swear word and also a cheeky circus show

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Tabarnak had its Adelaide Fringe premiere last year and has returned this year for the last two weeks of the Fringe (how are we in the last week already?!). Another show by the troupe of Cirque Alfonse who brought us Barbu (read our review of that show here).

It is being held in Bonython Hall at University of Adelaide as part of the Royal Croquet Club set up.


“Tabarnak”, Quebecois for “tabernacle” has its origins, as do many of the Quebecois profanities in religion. It’s one of the worst swear words in Quebec. The name of the show hints both at the church setting and also the rebellion against formality and normal circus that we see in this production.



The show is set in a church with a stained glass window prominent at the top centre of the stage. Church pews are moved around and turned sideways as props for great balancing feats in Tabarnak.

The church theme continues with the audience asked to stand for the national anthem, rather than a hymn. The songs, the majority of which are in French, have a strong religious flavour, while retaining a modernity. As with their other production Barbu, Tabarnak features an energetic live three-piece band. Throughout the show we see people on stage feigning dizzy spells in a nod to the commonly seen hysteria and fainting witnessed in some religious settings. We also see one of the female members of Cirque Alfonse seemingly possessed and dancing in a contorted fashion before building up to an incredible speed, spinning around faster and faster before coming to a sudden stop. There is also the amusing baptism scene, which we won’t go into so as not to spoil it. Religious items are also used a props, including an impressive number where the troupe balance, juggle and spin, cups of water (like those used in baptism) attached on rope.


As with their other production, Tabarnak features incredible feats of prowess. We see a tower of three people balanced on each other’s shoulders on more than one occasion, and not always in the traditional straight line either. Or why not climb a top of a pole merely being held on the front of the shoulder of the troupe member below? Incredible even if the audience was at times ill at ease.




The men may appear to be the centre of the show with their muscly torsos on show for the majority of it but the women also kick arse! We see them in feats of balance and strength as well as some impressive whip cracking. The aerial dance performance on the stained glass window now turned into platform suspended in the air was breathtaking. Early on, as with Barbu we see two women in a neck loop spinning horizontally while attached to two men spinning around on rollerblades. I was torn between cringing at the consequences if it went horribly wrong to being in awe at the skill and visual spectacle before me.

If you hadn’t already gathered, Cirque Alfonse do circus differently. This is no ordinary circus troupe and one you must see (and Tabarnak has a PG rating so is ok for the kiddies (no nudity unlike Barbu)). This show is not as frenetic as Barbu, which was full of energy from beginning to end, but rather we see a steady increase in energy levels over the 75 minutes, with an incredibly fun and jaw-dropping end.




Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe


Tabarnak plays every night from now until the end of the Adelaide Fringe. Tickets cost $55 with discounts for Adelaide Fringe members or concession card holders. You can purchase your tickets here: