Woodkid at La Seine Musicale, Paris review: 'A must-see spectacle'

Gay singer-songwriter and visual artist Woodkid concludes his three-night stint at La Seine Musicale in sublime fashion, before taking the ambitious show overseas.


Words: Joseph Ryan-Hicks; Image: Wiki Commons (left) and Kodavsky

Let’s talk about Woodkid.

Real-name Yoann Lemoine, chances are you’ve heard one of the French singer and visual artist's songs on TV or watched a music video directed by him. His fingerprints have been all over mainstream pop for nearly a decade, first coming to our attention in early 2011 with the release of his debut EP Iron, and later that year as the director of Lana Del Rey’s first big-budget music video, ‘Born to Die’.

Image: Katya Mokolo

Last Thursday's show (4 November) at La Seine Musicale in Paris - the last of three sold-out dates at this state-of-the-art music and performing arts centre - is more than just a pop gig. It’s an experience that belongs - and deserves - to be in an arena on this scale. 

As the brassy, heroic opener ‘Iron’ rumbles through the auditorium, it doesn’t take long for the 5,500-strong crowd to be in the palm of his hand. It’s evident that Yoann, and his band, are seasoned pros and totally in command. His confident entrance is that of an artist who has come ready for his moment, and this is his domain.

Image: Kodavsky

Arriving on stage in a simple bomber, cap, and military boots, it doesn’t feel unreasonable to suggest Woodkid’s wardrobe is a nod to Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’. Given his impressive directorial credits (Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’, Drake and Rihanna’s ‘Take Care’, Taylor Swift’s ‘Back to December’, Harry Styles’ ‘Sign of the Times’), this is as much a visual experience as it is a musical one. The industrial, often other-worldly CGI visuals are cinematic akin to the likes of late '80s/early '90s Janet and Madonna clips, as well as sharing the grandeur of Yoann’s own work for today’s generation of pop superstars.

The impressive 16-song setlist takes you on a journey into space, or perhaps another universe altogether. From the initial take-off of ‘Iron’, the twinkling ‘Reactor’ evokes the feeling of drifting through the stars and into the unknown, while the unnerving ‘On Then And Now’ takes you crashing back down to Earth in suitably chaotic fashion.

But it isn’t all space opera. Tender moments like ‘Brooklyn’, a stripped-back ode to falling in love with New York, hold their own against the more in-your-face tracks in the setlist. Meanwhile, the emotive ‘Horizons Into Battlegrounds’ is, in Yoann’s own words, “a moment of calm amongst the chaos.” 

It feels unjust to compare Yoann to any of his contemporaries given there are so few, if any, who exist in quite his unique space of music and art. Gaga, a creative powerhouse in her own right, comes close. While she flits between the world of pop and classical in her recent Las Vegas residency, few manage to effectively combine the two in a way that doesn’t feel contrived or phoney. Woodkid manages this. His ability to merge his three artistic fortes: music, video, and graphic design in a way that feels cohesive and defiantly on-brand is also something to be marvelled at.

Image: Kodavsky

It isn’t a case of ‘when’ Woodkid will happen. Woodkid *is* happening and has been for nearly a decade. If his army of devoted fans at Le Seine Musicale are anything to go by, the French public have welcomed Yoann in with open arms. And it’s time UK audiences did too. This is a must-see spectacle. 

Rating: 5/5

Woodkid performs at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Wednesday 17 November. Get tickets here.