Gallery: Yelle at First Avenue
In the three years since seeing the Brittany, France electropop Yelle in the Midwest, not many French artists have made it to this region of the States. Blame the attraction of either coast, but the Midwest doesn’t seem to be a compelling destination for French artists. It’s a little shocking as artist after artist inches as close as Toronto, then flies back to Europe. A few have ventured in-Cocoon, Wax Tailor, and the staples Air and Phoenix-but there remains a distinct lack. Once again, why? If anyone questioning the Midwest had experienced the audience at First Avenue in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, they would immediately plunge into the heartland of America.
Quick backstory. Yelle is the trio of Julie Budet and her producers GrandMarnier and Tepr. She originated in putting up a song on MySpace criticizing the rhymes and endowment of a certain Cuizinier, effectively topping him in both wordsmithery and fame in a short amount of time. 2007’s Pop-Up infectiously traversed the globe to be followed up by this year’s Safari Disco Club, influenced by Berlin’s Siriusmo. Due to a jammed 24 hour period of dinners, brunches, Delorean-sightings, concerts and warehouses, I could only catch the openers Estate and French Horn Rebellion via the televisions at The Depot attached to 7th Street/First Ave.
Even before Yelle took to the storied stage, the changes were already evident. As opposed to Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago back in ’08, the venue was serré with people, some in brightly colored clothes perfect for a Saved by the Bell dance party, all too eager to see the obviously adored French star in her own. The instruments changed since before with GrandMarnier’s drumset adding a raised, tilted floor drum for added umph and Tepr’s synth and keys setup shifted from a table to a rig poised and positioned. In between, thankfully present, was Julie’s floor tom. You know…for those times when two producers, a drumset and heavy Siriusmo-influenced beats don’t suffice enough. To quite possibly the loudest, most pent-up cheers I’ve heard in a while, the trio took to the stage…
To say Yelle knows how to perform is an understatement, it courses through her innately. GrandMarnier and Tepr took the lead, donning the safari jackets and visors from the “Safari Disco Club” video, before Julie emerged from the darkness donning dark, forest-covered camouflaged garb. Imagine something from emerging from the swamp, only svelte and calculated ready to unleash dance moves heralding back to the pop greats of the 80s. All the more theatrical, the two producers framed with stiff movements opened with “S’eteint le soleil”. Either having captured Julie, or about to release her, you couldn’t tell with her movements. Nevertheless, a crescendo of those aforementioned drums with Yelle at the helm extinguished any doubts that may have come to mind if it had been three years since seeing her perform.
With two clothing changes, starting with a leopard print dress and shifting into a devilish, spotted bodysuit, Yelle’s concert definitely had followed that evolutionary track. “Qui est cette fille?” soon was followed by “Ce jeu”, one of a handful of tracks from her debut album. People ate up the Robyn cover (“Who’s That Girl?”, off iTunes Foreign Exchange), though I went for the new, glitch/electronic beats that plunge her pop music off into a new sonic landscape. Thankfully the closest thing yet to a Siriusmo appearance came in the form of an intermission between “La Musique” and “J’ai bu”, transporting the downtown danceteria to Berlin’s famed nightlife scene.
It was easy to anticipate so much Pop-Up, given the four years to let it sink in, however the new album effectively warranted its own silver star painted on the walls of Yelle’s discography. “Je veux te voir” revived the overwhelming vague of 2007, giving Minneapolis its first taste of the smash hit, before dissolving into another dance interlude, this time evoking Jock Jams, Volume 1.
The official evening wrapped up with the duo “Que veux-tu” and the stunning “Safari Disco Club,” the first collective single off the new album. The two easily highlighted Julie’s addictive allure. She spends each second of the show for the audience, putting forth more effort than you expect to see by a performer. Her dance moves in complete sync with the beat; if you couldn’t see an instrument on stage, you may as well imagine it coming from her pure energy. “Safari Disco Club” emphasized the other; her undeniable voice. The build-up in the song, coupled with the previous 40-something minutes of non-stop dancing and electropop, was perfectly matched by her singing unexpectedly bursting through the rafters above. Yet what better way to follow-up then by leaving the stage to a ravenous public eager for an encore.
The night ended with Crookers‘ “Cooler Couleur” (off Kitsuné Maison Compilation 9) serving as a mere warm-up to the superb ending of “À Cause de garçons”. Arguably more popular than “Je veux te voir”, Yelle lulled the crowd with another trance before unleashing, via an unexpectedly smooth transition, into Tepr’s own remix. That was the charm of the evening, and supported the reasons why Yelle drew in a massive crowd both in Minneapolis as well as the following night in Madison; she has the voice, and her producers have the music. When all of them unite in one place, not only do you leave entirely consumed by happiness, but the next morning you know all that soreness from dancing was well worth it.