Gallery: Zaz at Rockwood Music Hall
Everyone gets nervous when landing in a foreign country. You stammer with the semblances of the learnt language in hopes that people can understand you. You stumble around hoping you caught the right metro line to the exact place you are supposed to be. And you hope all your ducks are in a row when it comes to luggage. For Zaz, who carried away the Victoire de la musique for best original song back in March, she eased right into a four show run for her debut in America without any visible nerves starting off with Saturday evening at Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 2. Oh, she also went diamond certification in France, selling over 500,000 albums.
To me, a French artist in America is unique. They tend to stick to either L.A. or NYC and shy away from non-acronym cities. Thus the chance to see one to actually debut was something quiet special to both me, as well as those attendees in the rather small music venue along East Houston Street. (One made her way up from Florida for the show.) Zaz and her exceptional voice, raspy with a gleeful essence, kept to French and Spanish for the entire concert. I found it perfectly fine, capturing how exceptional it is to have her in the Big Apple in the middle of all the other musicians, aspiring or established, for her to freely speak in French. Some people caught it, others thought she was adorable as she quipped jokes only few could understand. Did you need to understand French to have a good time? Not at all! On “Je veux”, the audience caught on to the chorus to layer her voice, making the chanteuse call out, “Plus fort!” (“Louder!”) to all those who could follow along.
She started off the night focused on highlighting her self-titled debut album, launching into “Les passants.” After the first chorus, that magic that transposes a room to another location swung into gear, proving to those unaccustomed that the extraordinary singing was only just beginning. How so? Versatile. Yes, raspy in quality, but once “Le Long de la route” and “Prends garde à ta langue” allowed her to stretch out and give us a goût of her impeccable kazoo imitation. (Which shocked me, as I never knew she could do that!)
The rest of the evening was laid back, dabbled with French pop more uptempo than the album itself. Feet a-tapping, heads-abobbing, surely dreaming of a real music hall with people in flowing dresses and suits to swing the ladies around arms and elbows to her music. Truth, it’s very French, but lively enough to revive those longing dreams that lead to the romantic image of la vie à la française. If you need a reason to see her, it’s her voice. There is none like it I have seen. Lissie may cut it close as an unbelievable potential duet.
For a free download, check out Zaz’s official website.