About two-thirds of the way through her set, French pop siren Yelle strides up to a platform to situate herself between the two drummers comprising her band.
Performing the bright electropop song “Tohu” from her new album, Complètement fou, she picks up a disco ball and holds it in her hands before her. Laser-like lightbeams crisscrossing the stage until this point changed direction to target the ball.
The lights scatter from the disco ball. The resulting light shower rained out over the room and the audience, and everyone was dazzled.
Yelle followed up the theatrics by bouncing right into the popular “Safari Disco Club,” the title track to her second album.
Indeed, light tricks or no, the sold-out audience was consistently dazzled by Yelle when she stopped by the 9:30 Club on Saturday, Oct. 11 in a tour supporting the latest album, released last month.
All of her songs are in her native French, and anecdotally, much of the audience didn’t speak fluent French. But that didn’t stop Yelle from winning admirers old and new with her upbeat attitude, sassy demeanor and danceable synthpop
She sang in French; she danced around stage; and she periodically struck poses during dramatic pauses, freezing in her tracks while her two drummers — producer Grand Marnier and Franck Richard — stopped and pointed their drumsticks at her.
A lifetime ago, I studied six years of French, and I can still recall enough of it to read simple passages or, for my own benefit, to understand that “Je Veux Te Voir” or “I Want to See You” is a pretty dirty song. (Of course, that tune from her debut album, Pop Up, won me over because it was written initially as a retort to a misogynistic rapper named Cuizinier. The lady has spunk!)
The crowd definitely lit up at the proven hits like “Comme Un Enfant” and “A Cause des Garcons”–songs of innocence and exasperation driven by love or lust, respectively. But everyone embraced the new material as well, singing and dancing to the encore of “Complètement fou” as if they learned it especially for that occasion.
For her part, Yelle seemed positively pleased to have drawn such a large enthusiastic crowd. I caught her twice previously at the 9:30 Club in support of her two previous albums, and the crowd certainly has grown each time she has come through. It’s remarkable how people who don’t know her lyrics word for word due to the language barrier nevertheless embrace her playful pop poise and Euro new wave sensibilities.
If you would like to “rendez-vous avec Yelle,” you are mostly in luck – her U.S. tour has barely started. She’s in Toronto, Canada, Wednesday but then returns to the States for a date in Cleveland Friday to dash across the Midwest to the West Coast and through Texas.
Yelle has been selling out many of the venues on this tour, and you should make the effort to join those crowds, whether you understand a word she sings or not! She’s bound to win you over either way.