Concert Review: Fredrika Stahl at Café de la Danse (Paris)

Fredrika Stahl (Paris, France) and Edward Barrow (Paris, France)
March 19th, 2013
Café de la Danse in Paris, France

Originally from Stockholm, Sweden, the pop singer has found herself at home in Paris and behind the ivories of a piano. She moved to France when she was 4, at the same time she recorded her first song on a cassette. Often compared to Norah Jones, she now has four albums out here in Europe with the latest being Off to Dance (out now in France). She has a delicate voice that is balanced by her tremendous, at times thunderous, piano melodies. To help draw this out, Rob Ellis, who also worked with PJ Harvey, was brought on for the new album after meeting at The Great Escape in Brighton back in 2011. Accompanying her this time were seasoned talents like Adrian Utley of Portishead and Ben Christophers of Bats for Lashes. All in all, she’s surrounded by good company.

I had the chance to be introduced to her live performance a few weeks back, accompanied by Maëva Le Berre on cello and Rémi Alexandre, in a small, more stripped down performance at La Belle Juliette. Tuesday night at the amphitheatrical Café de la Danse in Bastille, Fredrika and her musicians gave the packed venue a wonderful concert with a much fuller sound thanks to Tony Paeleman on keys and Mathieu Gayout on drums, highlighting Off to Dance but dipping back into 2010’s Sweep Me Away. “Off to Dance” set a mood of piano-laced pop with jazz undertones. Despite the orchestral arrangements on the album, Maëva more than makes up for a quartet behind the cello, especially as the song flourished into “Glory.” It was here that the Swede distinguished herself from her similar peers. The chorus punched beyond the blonde hair as her eyes would seemingly narrow each time “treacherous” was pronounced, relaxing thereafter into sweeping, unassuming verses. Enchanting wraith comes to mind. Yet don’t think that bitterness or bite is the whole story.

“So High” served the balance following “Glory” with its rather joyful, bouncing number punctuated by jazzy piano. Its introspective lyrics don’t weigh down on self-reflection, but remain featherlight both on the album and in Café de la Danse last night where she returned after performing there two years earlier. “Little Muse” later on, a personal favorite, had the seated audience moving much more to its whimsical chorus carrying her voice towards the clouds faster than the Chinese lanterns that drifted skyward over Bastille moments before. “We Are Whole” was the point that people finally broke from singing along and swaying to clapping, albeit the end of the main set. The band were awash in the moment with Rémi completely being captivated while Fredrika and Tony went to town on a floor tom.

Fredrika stepped away from the piano several times, which was great to break up the potential monotony that can happen if a singer relies too much on piano. “She & I” saw her warm up to the front of the audience as Maëva set down the cello momentarily for bass. “Midday Moon” saw her more exposed, standing before the mic stand, serenading fragile notes over the enraptured.

The concert started to come to a conclusion with “Trip Me Up” and red gels transporting the venue back into a far more intimate venue or club with a swaying, swinging jaunt leading right into “Rocket Trip to Mars” and “We Are Whole.” Returning on stage for the encore, Fredrika stepped behind the piano for “Deep Breath than Dive,” the album closer and possibly most beautiful moment on Off to Dance. It’s the kind of track you’d hear soundtracked to that rainy scene in a movie where the main character musters up the courage to shed the past to progress into a better tomorrow, and was just as moving Tuesday night before “Altered Lens” closed on a more uptempo note.

Fredrika is about to head out on tour throughout Europe. Until Off to Dance makes its way to North America shores, be sure to check out her 2010 album to get a taste of one of Europe’s premiere pop/piano singers.

Setlist:

Off to Dance
Glory
So High
Willow
A Drop in the Sea
She & I
Midday Moon
M.O.S.W.
Sweep Me Away
Little Muse
In My Head
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Trip Me Up
Rocket Trip to Mars
We Are Whole

Encore:
Deep Breath and Dive
Altered Lens

Thoughts?

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