Stromae brings charisma and Belgian hits to the Depot


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]— Courtesy Universal Music - Wikiportret.
Much like his music, Stromae’s act is hard to define. Paul Van Haver, otherwise known as Stromae (pronounced “strow-my” and slang for “Maestro”), is a Belgian artist who sings and raps mostly in French over a combination of Euro club beats, sparkling African guitars and ever-innovating synths. He gave Salt Lake a show Sunday night much bigger than the packed venue.
After greeting the crowd with a rendition of the fast-paced “Ta fête,” he stopped to tell everyone good evening and ask about their well-being: “Bonsoir! Are you well? Is your family well? Your friends? Your friend’s family? Your friends’ friends?” The crowd responded with gusto after every question.
Stromae drew an incredibly diverse audience. Outside the venue, mothers lined up with young children (most speaking French), tweens dragged along parents, grandmas danced their hearts out and a large contingent of Utah’s French-speaking population seemed to be present. Thus, there was no shortage of singing along from the crowd. The moment Stromae walked on stage, the cell phone cameras went up and didn’t really go down for the rest of the show. To grasp Stromae’s fame overseas, his latest album, “Racine Carrée” (translated in English to “square root”), spent time on the top of the charts in 19 European countries and has drawn lyrical comparisons to Morrissey.
Stromae then launched into a two-hour hit-fest of songs, like “Tous Les Mêmes,” a song about the construct of gender; his first big hit, “Alors On Danse,” about working the world’s troubles out on a dance floor; “Humain à L’eau,” an incredibly danceable song about overpopulation and conservation; and “Carmen,” a reference to the opera of the same name and one that borrows its most famous aria melody. That is perhaps Stromae’s greatest strength, taking topics like gender stereotypes and conservation and not only making them listenable, but also danceable.
If connecting history, intellectual ideas and politics and then turning them into something danceable is Stromae’s first talent, his second is dancing itself. The man moves with humor, intensity and boundless energy. At one point during “Humain à L’eau” he synced up with the projection screen behind him showing about a hundred virtual backup dancers. Let’s just say even the likes of Chris Brown or Lady Gaga would not want to meet Stromae in a dance fight.
For his encore, Stromae and his band of bowler-capped hommes presented his international hit “Papaoutai.” The live arrangement emphasized the bright Congolese rumba guitars, giving the song a happier tone than its lyrics about an absentee father and its more subdued studio version would initially suggest. Following the song, the crowd still wasn’t ready to go home: “OK, OK, we have one more song we can try for you.” And the band joined Stromae in an impressive a capella version of “Tous Les Mêmes.”
One got the sense that this was small potatoes for a certified pop superstar, and everyone in The Depot seemed to understand that this was probably the last time they would see the Maestro himself perform in such close quarters.
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