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French football icon sets new goal as singer-songwriter

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
French football icon sets new goal as singer-songwriter
Former French football player and actor Eric Cantona performs to a packed venue in Paris. (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP)

Eric Cantona, one of the most celebrated figures in the history of French football, has embarked on an international concert tour vaunting his skills as a singer-songwriter.

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Eric Cantona, football great, painter and lead actor, is adding rock star to his repertoire as he embarks on a concert tour to share his "emotions".

Cantona won league titles with Marseille and Leeds before arriving at Manchester United in 1992 and elevating the club to the top of English football. Since retiring he has appeared in a string of films, television series and commercials.

He is also a song writer and is taking his music, rock with a melancholic flavour, on the road, with a pianist and a cellist accompanying his husky vocals.

After dates in England and Ireland, the "Cantona sings Eric" tour reached Lyon on Friday.

Cantona in red sports shoes and trousers, a long black coat and a small hat and making an effort that left him drenched in sweat, performed about 20 of his own compositions to a largely sold-out audience in the small Comedie Odeon theatre.

"I do this to be on stage and for the audience. That's what I enjoy," he told AFP before the concert. "On stage, I become someone else through the interaction" with the audience.

He said he is "interested" first and foremost in "this moment of sharing".

His tour kicked off at the end of October in Manchester and will soon take him to Geneva, Marseille and Paris, before a second tour scheduled for spring 2024.

"The first songs I started writing were for my wife", the actress Rachida Brakni, he said.

"I wrote my feelings...my emotions, what I dream of, what I aspire to. It's very personal."

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'Metamorphoses'

Cantona has made vocal appearances with French artists and lip-synched in a video for a song by Manchester City fan Liam Gallagher, but now is the frontman.

He has released four tracks and an EP ('I'll Make My Own Heaven') on the internet. A live album of around 20 tracks is due to be released at the end of the two tours.

Some songs are in French, some in English. On 'Je Veux' ('I want'), he sings that he hopes to be "old/But surrounded by love/Happy people".

While his lyrics often evoke death, he says he is most interested in "metamorphoses".

"We live a thousand lives every moment," he said.

"My songs always have this contradictory side between the dark and the bright. This is a way of trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel".

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He says his musical "pantheon" includes Jim Morrison the lead singer of The Doors, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

"I like them because they're personalities and I want to be a personality," he says.

'Je Veux' is inspired by the semi-spoken 'The End' by The Doors.

"I want loved friends/Night animals/Bats/Spiders/Morning and evening/Grief yes/But hope", he whispers.

That may have bamboozled some who still recall his bizarre "when seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea" press conference utterance of two decades ago.

However, his "non-conformist side" won over Florence Faubourg, 48, who waited in a group of around fifty fans outside the dressing room to greet the artist. She said she likes his "personality and lyrics".

"I can't explain it, but everything he does speaks to me", she said."He holds his own on stage," said her husband David, a 52-year-old football fan who viewed Cantona, who played 45 times for France, as a "rebellious" player.

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