From the lines wrapping around the block outside House of Blues preceding Stromae’s sold-out Boston show, it was easy to see that the Belgian artist’s following in the United States has grown exponentially. With resale tickets selling for $150-1000 before the show and eager fans packing the floor before his opener began, the crowd set high bar for his performance.
Rising R&B singer Jidenna worked the audience’s anticipation, playing a set of his own hip-hop tracks mixed in with covers of crowd favorites. Although his material is relatively light in comparison to Stromae’s politically charged lyrics, songs like “Long Live the Chief” were imbued with enough commentary on power to ease the audience into some recurring themes for the night.
From the moment Stromae came on, his captivating stage presence commanded the audience through his set. In an hour and a half, the audience marched, danced without music, danced with music, and screamed “Belgian fries” in response to the artist’s rant on Belgian inventions being misattributed to France. In return, the maestro himself provided a show that defied expectations.
Towards the middle of the show, Stromae’s set took a darker turn as he worked his way into tracks like quand c’est, which touches on cancer’s impact on his family and on society. No topic is left untouched by Stromae, who throughout the course of the show touched on alcoholism in Formidable, toxic masculinity in Tous le Memes, and white man’s burden in the club hit Humain a l’eau. His ability to musically navigate these dark topics without killing the crowd’s overwhelming energy was truly impressive.
After his string of darker singles, Stromae rebounded with full energy for an Alors en Danse mashup peppered with some of the iconic disco and house tracks that inspired it, and finally sang his most popular track to date, Papaoutai. Joining his band, he then played an expansive instrumental finale track to a cinematic animated backdrop on the screens above him.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of his live show, however, was when Stromae managed to work the entire crowd to silence for his acapella encore on Tous le memes with his bandmates. It was a truly intimate way to wrap up the night, and for just a few minutes House of Blues didn’t feel so packed.
Stromae’s ability to take the most unexpectedly serious political and social issues and weave them into the fabric of dance music makes for one rollercoaster of a live performance. We’re excited to see what new realms his lyrics will delve into as his career matures.