“Are you happy, San Francisco?” Stromae asked repeatedly throughout his second night at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Given the combination of his music’s catchy Congolese and electronic beats, an ever-changing light display and the Belgian singer’s eccentric dance moves, it would’ve been difficult for anyone in the audience to answer, “No.”
It’s not uncommon to walk away from a live music performance feeling as if you’ve been transported to an alternate universe; however, Stromae’s Multitude Tour does this with unmatched intentionality. The concert opened with a short animated sequence in which a caricatured version of Stromae appeared to be prepping for the show on a distant planet with the help of various robots. After the animated Stromae plugged in his keyboard and flicked off the lights, the set slowly illuminated during the extended instrumental introduction to “Invaincu,” the first track on his most recent album, Multitude. The song’s name — translated to “undefeated” — was a fitting opening to Stromae’s first album released since 2013 and his first arena tour in many years.
The futuristic theme was carried throughout the night as large mechanical arms moved screens in the backdrop to set different vibes for each song and a robotic dog brought out Stromae’s iconic teal jacket for his viral 2013 hit, “Papaoutai.” His setlist was sprinkled with other longtime fan favorites, including “Formidable” and “Ta fête” from his 2013 album, Racine Carrée. He wrapped up the night with his breakthrough hit and current dance club standby “Alors On Danse,” during which he broke into the slowed down version that went viral on TikTok in 2021.
Stromae attempted to converse with his San Francisco audience in French between songs, but he quickly realized that English would be a better way to connect with the majority of the crowd. Yet, through an imaginative set design and use of props, the artist created a space where language was not a barrier to having a good time and providing food for thought. For example, a floating armchair followed him with the consecutive songs “Mauvaise journée” and “Bonne journée.” To convey their messages, he lethargically draped himself over the chair for the “bad day,” but he triumphantly mounted it and paraded around the stage during the “good day.” Thus, it was unnecessary to understand the intricacies of his lyrics in order to relate to the feelings of days where life seems inexplicably bad, and others where you can’t help but to do a happy dance.
Life’s ups and downs remained a consistent theme throughout the set as Stromae seamlessly flitted between intense and more lighthearted moments. For example, the striking lights, projected stormy skies and thundering base line that accompanied “L’enfer” were immediately contrasted by songs such as “C’est que du bonheur,” during which he celebrated life being “nothing but happiness” with a beaming smile and an effortless jig. The screen behind him was divided into five stages of life, putting his current prime state in the middle — perhaps a result of the birth of his four-year-old son to which he dedicated the song.
While many of Stromae’s songs touch on elaborate and intense topics, the pandemic inspired him to base his lyrics on the happenstance encounters of everyday life. It also inspired him to give thanks, something he did for every single member of his production team by mentioning them by name during his rendition of “Santé,” a song about paying tribute to those who aren’t thanked enough. He included everyone in this experience by having his caricature — with the help of an automated voice and the band members — teach the audience a series of dance moves to accompany it, which they more than willingly executed.
All in all, Stromae’s production lifted attendees into another dimension — one where the ordinary is celebrated, tough times are acknowledged and language or cultural differences do not hinder our ability to form a community. And, just as quickly as the crowd had been lifted off its feet, it was set gently back down with an a cappella rendition of “Mon Amour” and sent out into the San Francisco night humming and dancing along to his irresistible beats.