Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yelle à la Commodore avec French Horn Rebellion

French Horn Rebellion started the night with smoke rolling over The Commodore's empty stage, while their dramatic intro played. When the two brothers from Milwaukee, Robert and David, took the stage, they made a few waves, gestures, taps on the decks and keyboards, and a fever began to spread through the quickly growing crowd on the dancefloor. They aren't entirely a band, or entirely a DJ duo either, but whatever they are, they are the type to give the audience a banging first impression. There's an odd thing about synthpop music: on record, it usually sounds chilled and relaxed, but even without changing much, the same songs live on stage become massive floor killers. It always shocks me a little every time. In the first few songs, David manned the tables while accomplished Robert played the French horn, running all over the stage and through the crowd, pumping up the audience like an overcaffeinated aerobics instructor. The band's antics and their pounding synth beats turned a small crowd that seemingly had no idea who French Horn Rebellion were, into a mass of dancing bodies. Perfect warmup for Yelle.

French Horn Rebellion - Up All Night
Previously: French Horn Rebellion - Beaches and Friends (Hey Champ Remix)

Yelle's bandmates, GrandMarnier and Tepr, took the stage first, dressed like big-game hunters on a safari, pounding their floor toms to the beat of “S'éteint le soleil”. I have no idea why this is the closing track on their new album Safari Disco Club. It's the perfect intro. A tall mass of foliage, shaped a little like a slender French woman, swept onto the stage and began singing. Further into the song, the lights went out and the music paused for effect, and when the lights flashed back on, Yelle's ghillie suit was gone, leaving her dressed in her trademark leopard skin. A few songs into the set, the band played “Ce jeu” and “La musique”, the second-biggest hits from the old and new albums. This is when it became apparent that the band actually reworks every song for the live show, not only giving them steadier, more danceable beats, but they also make sweeping changes to the instrumentation. Every song is essentially a remix, produced for the live show with GrandMarnier on drums and Tepr on keyboard and synths. It was a great effect, keeping the beat consistent to keep everyone dancing, even though they took a few brief breaks between songs to banter and introduce the next songs.

Going into the show, I was curious how the language barrier would affect the show, since every Yelle song is entirely in French, except when it's natural to borrow phrases from English, like the chorus of “Safari Disco Club”, the title track off the new album. Not many audience members were seen singing along during most of the show, but Yelle's French lyrics had no effect whatsoever on the energetic link between the band and the audience. After a funky Zapp-esque detour, where Tepr and GrandMarnier played sans Yelle, the band soared through more of their new material, finishing the set with the one song everyone knew the words to, as they shouted the simple chorus of, “Les animaux dansent dans la Safari Disco Club!” (For those of you without the basic elementary French that most of us have here, even in English-speaking Canada, it means, “The animals are dancing in the Safari Disco Club!”)

Sometimes, when an act leaves the stage, the crowd's cheering will rise and fall until they return for an encore. Yelle's audience, on the other hand, ROARED. GrandMarnier was so excited, he ran across the stage twice, first shooting the crowd with his camera, then pumping his fists in the air on the way back, which only charged up the crowd even more. I'm still kicking myself for not knowing enough French and enough Yelle to identify all the songs they played, but they played one more, then finished with the one everyone was waiting for, “A cause des garçons”. Et la concerte fini avec un grand éclat!

Yelle - Safari Disco Club
Previously: VIDEO: La retour de Yelle

Yelle's tour continues down the West Coast USA in May, after which they're heading back to Europe then Japan for the summer. Check out Yelle's new album Safari Disco Club and French Horn Rebellion's The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion, both available now!


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