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Timothy Norris

Live Review: Yelle with French Horn Rebellion at The Music Box

Who: Yelle w/French Horn Rebellion

Where: The Music Box

When: 5/21/2011

Oh, France.

Has there ever been a country so well put-together that even its most hackneyed cliches are charming and sexy? Sure, you have a disturbing tendency to get really up in arms about the civil rights of rapists, but you make up for it by constantly producing people like Yelle. And last night, the lithe, cat-suited electropop goddess blew the packed crowd at The Music Box away with an astonishingly high-energy set that was 50% melodic perfection, 50% banging beats and 50% totally adorkable French-accented banter of the 'We are zo pleezed to, how do you say, be heere toonight!' variety.

"You ready to shake your body body? We want to see that."

Yeah, exactly like that. SWOON.

Brooklyn's French Horn Rebellion also delivered the goods with a brilliant and frequently hilarious opening set that might have been the best compensation for early-set tech problems we've ever seen. It was two hours of fun to the extreme and incredibly sexy sexiness that, by the end, had us wishing that maybe the world had ended. It's kind of hard to go on when you've just had the time of your life.

"Yo Dave, check out my spin moves!"

Living in Los Angeles makes one become very, very comfortable with casual. Even the most dedicated scensters dress like we're splitting the difference or, at least, hedging our bets. Trying not to commit too much to anything. New York, on the other hand, goes 100% all-out formal. People wear suits to every kind of job interview, and even the scroungiest just-outta-bed hipster looks like he spent 40 hours putting himself together. We spent a week in Brooklyn surrounded by people wearing nothing but t-shirts and we still felt underdressed.

We bring this up because French Horn Rebellion are totally hardcore and the most Brooklyn-looking guys ever. They're also basically incredible - seriously, listen to This Moment for more than 30 seconds; if it isn't immediately your new favorite song you're dead inside - and we love their debut album, but going into the show we were cautiously optimistic. The world is littered with people who can't produce results live. This is doubly true when you're talking about a duo who rely extensively on playing sampled bits of their songs via laptop while they accompany on keys. Lots of potential for technical breakdowns and the possibility of more ums and hmmms than a college radio DJ.

It turns out the solution to the former is to be awesome. Part of what works so fucking well about French Horn Rebellion is that these guys take their music, but not themselves, seriously. God bless them for it. They started their set, or rather attempted to start their set, with "This Moment," but David Perlick-Molinari's laptop broke. We're pretty sure moments like this is why we only write about music, because we would have been tearing out our hair and inventing brand new profanities to accompany our humiliation. Robert Perlick-Molinari simply whipped out his French horn and started taking requests from the crowd for composers whose work he should belt out. This revealed not only the fact that French Horn Rebellion isn't a jokey, ironic name - he actually knows how to play that shizz, yo - but that The Music Box audience's knowledge of classical music is seriously deficient.

(Note to the earnest woman who shouted "Tolstoy!" as her suggestion: Tolstoy was a writer. You were probably thinking of Baryshnikov.)

Once the laptop was fixed, French Horn Rebellion were back in business and their shortened show didn't lose anything but time. They played nonstop and nearly managed to make it the entire way through their debut album's track, almost as though they were DJing their own songs. Particularly incredible was the severely reworked version of "Beaches and Friends" that abandoned the straight Brooklyn disco sound of the initial release in favor of something that sounded more appropriate for the invasion of murderous drum machines. They also peppered the set with bouts of outright hilarity and simple, stupid joy that almost made us wish the headliner/opener order was reversed.

For instance, Robert asked David to check out his spin moves and then proceeded to show them, which promoted David to respond in kind. And near the end of their set, they seemed to be going for the ultimate brown-note and then Robert announced, "A'ight y'all it's Vanilla Ice time!" and proceeded to drop the first two verses of "Ice, Ice Baby." Followed by the two brothers pretending to fight to the death onstage. We wish America had a million bands like this.

One thing that's rather nice about living in the future, besides the tablet computers and easy-to-find pornography music and political literature, is that we appear to finally be past a lot of the political music fights, or at least, beyond the idea that fun music can't also be serious music. People seem pretty pleased to enjoy themselves without having to justify it, and we're pretty sure we're not due for another lame anti-disco backlash. But if we are, please dear God please, delay it until after French Horn Rebellion retire.

"We survived ze end of ze world!"

It's difficult to review something that is simply excellent. Much like how Eskimos supposedly have dozens of words for "snow," we have a million words for hating something terrible, but only so many ways to say something was just great. Incredible? Amazing? Awesome? Kick ass? Mind Blowing? Yeah, Yelle's set was all of these things and more, but generic praise fails to do justice to something so (sorry) amazing. A Yelle show is part cabaret, part disco and part seance, with Yelle herself coming off almost as a kind of high priestess of dance pop. No, we're kidding, that is incredibly pretentious. How about we'll just stick with "Yelle is talented as hell and extremely hot" and let you all work it out for yourself.

As quoted above, Yelle also noticed our collective survival of the rapture; we're glad for her comment on the fact that yet another end of the world had failed to materialize, but coming from a woman who began her show draped in what appeared to be a dirty mop only to reveal five minutes in an extremely compelling leopard-print dress, it felt almost for a moment like the Rapture did, in fact happen and it only removed the boring people.

As befits the final show of her American tour, her set consisted of a run down of almost all her acclaimed singles - "Ce Jeu," "Je Veux Te Voir," "La Musique" and so on. Every single cut guaranteed to generate an ecstatic response from the crowd, and it succeeded. It was a nonstop dance party replete with costume changes, break-neck musical switches and, let's be honest, incredible hotness that can only be described as "compulsory." We're not suggesting that the fact Yelle is hotter than the sun influenced our estimation of her performance, but there are probably only three people on earth who could pull off her sexy disco catburglar look while looking like she is about attend a board meeting.

It was a deliciously calculated performance, straddling the line between playing up her hotness and simply being awesome, and it came off almost as if Yelle were engaging in Yelle cosplay. She strutted in increasingly ridiculous (and ridiculously hot) outfits while her band pounded drums and keys and dancers showed up to drop backflips and front-jumps so casually you think that's just how France rolls. The crowd sang along and stomped dutifully and by the end had us kind of realizing why fascism was so seductive - had Yelle ordered it, we're pretty sure the crowd would have stormed out of The Music Box and marched on Parliament.

Fortunately, Yelle only uses her powers for good. Sexy, ass-shaking good. If you weren't there, weep for your loss. The rest of us will try filling the void with whatever empty pleasures we can find, at least until the next huckster comes along to promise the world is coming to an end.


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