Stromae in Washington D.C., December 3, 2022
Stromae in Washington D.C. – December 3, 2022
When Belgian artist Stromae (“maestro” with the syllables reversed) stopped touring in 2015, many people (myself included) thought that they would never get to see the electronic-pop superstar in concert. After several years away from music, he returned to live shows, making a stop at The Anthem in Washington D.C. with opener Sho Madjozi. The sold-out crowd was ready for his return and gave him a warm reception throughout the entire show.
Sho Madjozi, a South African rapper, singer, and actress opened the show with a lot of energy and excitement. Flanked by two backup dancers and a DJ, she performed wearing traditional Tsonga dress, a culture she is very proud of and incorporates into her music. Singing a mix of English and Swahili, the crowd embraced her energy and passion for singing, reciprocating the energy on stage even if they could not understand the lyrics. Her set included her song, “John Cena,” a spirited rap song that jumped between languages. She took the time to introduce her backup dancers and give them the appreciation they deserved before ending her set with “Idhom,” and left the stage to a thunderous applaud.
The lights dimmed and the crowd roared in anticipation as the opening choral notes to “Invaincu,” rang out, a perfect introduction to the night. The instrumentalists and backup vocalists were spaced out evenly on the stage, with Stromae’s microphone set in the middle of it all, commanding your attention. He transitioned into “Fils de joie,” bringing up a podium that made it look like he was giving a news conference. For those familiar with his work, this setup was a reference to the music video for the song, where Stromae acts as the leader of a fictional country, giving a tribute to a sex worker who has passed away. The podium was moved away as Stromae strutted across the stage like it was a runway while singing “Tous les mêmes,” a song off his sophomore album, Racine Carrée.
The setlist bounced back and forth between his slower, melodic tracks like “Mon amour,” and “quand c’est?,” and more upbeat dance tracks such as “Bonne Journée.” The sold-out crowd knew a lot of the French lyrics and sang along, giving a thunderous applause at the conclusion of each song. A particularly loud cheer erupted when the opening piano notes to one of his most famous songs, “Papaoutai,” began, and the lighting and visual effects during the song were some of the most impressive of the night. Stromae interacted a bit with the crowd in between songs, asking how much of the audience knew French and conversing a bit with those who did. He also commented being a little unsure about playing shows in the US again, wondering to himself how many fans would show up since he has not toured in nearly seven years.
The final few songs included a stretch from his newest album, Multitude, which was released in March of this past year (and my favorite album of the year). One of them, “Santé,” was embraced as a celebration to workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, with lyrics (translated) such as, “And if we celebrate those who do not celebrate / For once, I’d like to raise my glass to those who don’t have one.” At the conclusion of this song he thanked nearly everyone involved in the concert, including his instrumentalists, stage managers, sound and lighting engineers, and production company that put together the visuals throughout the entire show. It was a great reminded to appreciate those not just on stage, as the show truly could not go on without them.
His encore consisted of the song that catapulted him into fame, “Alors on danse,” the catchy dance tune that won him international recognitions for its influence on the electro/dance genre. The crowd seemed to be waiting most of the show for this song, and the floor seemed to shake as the crowd jumped up and down to the chorus. The show finished with a beautiful a capella rendition of “Mon amour,” he performed with his backup singers. His show was one of the most visually appealing I have seen it a very long time, with the lighting and background visuals synching perfectly with the music and really elevating the show beyond just a concert. The tour moves overseas to France and Belgium for the spring and summer, but he would certainly have a very large crowd waiting for his return back in the States.