“A few years ago, I was here in a totally different position,” joked Carla Bruni, the former first lady of France, her reference not lost on the Washington-area crowd Feb. 13. “I’d rather be doing this, here at the Birchmere.”
“This” is singing and writing music, which Bruni did long before she was a supermodel and the wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy — “my man,” as she lovingly calls him.
Last fall, she released her fifth album, “French Touch,” her second in English, which she is promoting on an American and European tour (her West Coast stops include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle). Bruni’s sold-out show at the Birchmere, in Alexandria, Virginia, was her first American engagement since 2014.
Born in Italy into a wealthy and highly cultured family, Bruni moved to France as a child. She has been enchanted by American songs and movies since girlhood, which motivated “French Touch.”
She performed “Moon River,” a favorite since she saw Audrey Hepburn with her ukulele on that iconic stairwell in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Please Don’t Kiss Me” from 1948’s “The Lady from Shanghai.”
Both classics are featured on the album, as are a cheeky rendition of ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” which Bruni breathily sang, guitar in hand, dripping with irony in the #metoo climate.
Wearing tight leather pants and oozing Gallic charm, Bruni also presented her French repertoire, including the song that put her on the musical map in 2003, “Quelqu’un m’a dit” (Someone Told Me), a lament about the fleetingness of love and life, from her debut album of the same name.
Coming up at the Birchmere next month are Graham Nash (March 1), Sweet Honey in the Rock (March 6), Dave Mason (March 14), the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Shine the Light Tour” (March 16), Lee Ann Womack’s “All the Trouble Tour” (March 23), Mike + the Mechanics (March 27) and Marshall Crenshaw (March 30), among other shows.