Tuesday night in the pits of The Docks, a Belgian rapper, a maestro in his own right, was making his Toronto debut. Given the lineup outside the doors, turns out Stromae’s French raps had connected well with English Canada as well.
Those in attendance ranged from 6 year old munchkins to their willing parents and grandparents. The spoken French around me hinted that several had made the trip from Quebec. Or this was a rad French Immersion assignment.
The House DJ played a stellar mix of Eurocentric tunes that, fittingly, featured non-English words. The mix transformed the atmosphere into a Saturday night at the Guvernment, and got the notoriously stoic Toronto crowd grooving while checking on their Instagram Likes of the group selfie they posted.
Already a big name across the pond and the provincial borders, Stromae’s elaborate entrance was on par with his usual stadium shows. The opening montage on the backdrop projected a skinny man going through a conveyer belt, being manufactured into a famed pop star. That imagery paired well with the opening song, ‘Ta Fete’, that sasses about being compelled to act in a certain way by the world. Establishing the bilingual tone early on, the Belgian phenom, named Paul Van Haver, continued to replicate the conceptual brilliance of his music videos into the live setting. Like, being masculine and gracefully feminine akin the music video of ‘Tous les memes’ or acting drunk during ‘Formidable’, where a crewmember carried him off stage while the crowd chanted the chorus “tu étais formidable, j’étais fort minable/ nous étions formidables”. Following the only lag in the set during the eccentric ‘Quand C’est’, the eternally energetic Haver jumped into the tribal vibes of ‘Humain a L’eau’ and hits ‘Alors en danse’ and ‘Papaoutai’.
When artistic brilliance and ingenuity finds mainstream acclaim, it restores your faith in quality music and enhances your immunity to tolerate the generic crap.
Stromae sells out arenas rapping about issues like social media alienation and absent father, furthering the proof that conscientious rap can be fun and catchy.
Follow updates from Stromae here.
Review by Nilabjo Banerjee |