Belgian superstar Stromae brought Pixar-like animations, synchronized TikTok dancing and the vibe of a European nightclub to Agganis Arena.
12/6/22 – Agganis Arena
The crowd might have cheered just as loud for the Pixar-like Stromae that kicked off the concert onscreen as they did when the real Stromae joined his animated likeness onstage. Throughout the show, the focus of the performance was split between mini films, visualizations and the Belgian artist.
The blend of digital and reality wasn’t just in the duplication of the star himself, but also in supporting elements of the show: the smooth, shiny, white robot arm on screen (reminiscent of the iconic Pixar lamp) was designed in the same style as the arms that supported the screens above the stage and the futuristic pods behind which Stromae’s band stood.
Stromae is known for his dance-pop hits, so it was no surprise when the audience was thrown into a strobing European nightclub for bass-forward songs like “Ta fête.” But it wasn’t all a party: on “Mauvaise journée” Stromae curled up between the arms of a prop couch as he sang about a depressing day. A foreboding stomp of a beat contrasted the bright strumming of the charango, and slowly, the animatronic couch slid back, dragging the artist along with it. His 3D animation (looking as if he was made of jelly) mirrored his movements, slipping off his own virtual couch before setting off into the rain.
As Stromae sang about unhealthy relationships from various perspectives on “Pas vraiment” the monitors revealed views looking into apartment windows—a shot reminiscent from the intro of Only Murders In The Building or a colorful hotel in a Wes Anderson movie. A hypnotic Middle Eastern ney flute filled the gaps between Stromae’s verses as he swayed to the beat. Behind him, the scenes onscreen float by: an old couple dancing together in a red room, a girl standing in a green bathroom brushing her teeth, a man with an apron slowly stirring a pot on a stove.
In most cases, the visual effects and stage props helped convey the meanings of the songs and artfully tied in elements of his music videos, signature fashion and lyrics. But sometimes, Stromae’s singing and dancing alone could have been enough. On “C’est que du bonheur,” a song about the cycle of life, the digital element was redundant bonus material. An evolutionary line of past, present and future Stromae animations walked onscreen, but the real-life Stromae’s emotive movements—he cradled an imaginary baby and acted like an old man with a cane—had already translated for non-French speakers.
As the show came to a close, the arena’s exit stairs were lit up and what felt like an in-flight safety demonstration video came onscreen. Instead of instructions to airplane exits, animated Stromae offered a different kind of escape: a chance to learn a dance for “Santé.” The result was a well-timed sea of dancing fans in a hockey stadium that usually sees synchronized moves no more advanced than the wave. An instrumental breakdown in the middle of the song meant Stromae had a chance to thank not just his band, but everyone from the “robitician” and sound crew to the animators and security. Before he walked offstage Stromae took a moment to open up about his doubts about an arena tour in the United States: “I said, no way! But we made it. You made it!”