Backstage a singer prepares. He smokes, drinks a glass of beer, jokes, and talks with friends and fellow musicians. In the streets outside, people move towards the theater, where a neon banner announces ‘JACQUES BREL’.
Somewhere, there’s a better quality version of this, but think of it as a home movie, or as vintage footage, not seen since it was first broadcast on British TV, in November 1966.
Brel was on his farewell tour, and this was his final performance in Paris, at the Olympia. It was a powerful and emotional appearance. Brel left the stage exhausted after 7 curtain calls, his angular face strained, his shirt and suit soaked with sweat. That same month, the Belgian singer performed for the last time in London, before traveling on to New York for his final American shows at the Carnegie Hall in December 1966 and January 1967.
Brel said he was fed up seeing his ugly mug plastered everywhere in the papers and on TV, but the truth was the intensity of his stage performances demanded all of his emotion, and all of his energy, and there was only so long Brel could live at such a pace.
He bought a yacht, said he would sail around the world. Recorded songs for a new album. Then, on May 16th, 1967, Jacques Brel walked on stage in Roubaix, France, to give his final concert.
With thanks to NellyM
Bonus—Jacques Brel, his final concert in Amsterdam, 1964, after the jump…