Home Music Yael Naïm’s got a new soul and an old spirit

Yael Naïm’s got a new soul and an old spirit

by The Concordian November 15, 2011
Yael Naïm’s got a new soul and an old spirit

Photo credit: Shai Shott

If you’ve never walked out of a concert thinking that you and the artist could be the world’s best buds, then you may have missed your chance. That is, if you weren’t lucky enough to catch Israeli-French singer-songwriter Yael Naïm’s show on Nov. 9.
In a perfect blend of quirky charm, disarming pipes and seamless genre crossovers, the 33-year-old delivered a mature performance, seducing L’Astral’s modestly packed cabaret-style venue.
Kicking things off was Salomé Leclerc, whose sparse stage presence and melancholic melodies failed to capture attention until her two musicians left the stage, giving her delicate yet raspy voice the attention it deserved. It then became clear why a conglomeration of French radio channels had just declared her the artist to watch for in November and December 2011.
A short break revealed a reserved looking crowd ranging in age between 30 and 60, wine bottles adorning the centres of their tables. Then, wearing a bright red flower in her hair, a lime green dress, knee length leggings and a pretty pair of heels, Naïm stepped on stage and headed straight to her piano.
She started her set smoothly with “My Dreams,” from her 2010 collaborative release with percussionist David Donatien, She Was a Boy. Donatien accompanied her on stage along with bassist Daniel Romeo.
She progressed into an impossibly sweet version of “Umbrella” by pop princess  Rihanna―her first of many exquisite transitions between jazz, folk, rock, pop, classical and traditional Middle Eastern musical styles. The smoothness with which she mixed genres was rivalled only by the messages woven into her songs in French, English and Hebrew.
Born in Paris, Naïm grew up in Israel and completed her military service in the Air Force Orchestra. On stage, she recounted moving away from her Tunisian-born parents and back to Paris. “Everyone had somewhere to go, someone to meet,” she told the attentive crowd. “I just walked.”
She recorded her second studio album during those first two years in the city of lights. The self-titled effort, released in 2007, includes the perky track that eventually caught Steve Jobs’ ever-attentive eye, “New Soul.”
Intimate stories of her longing for the ocean, of a boyfriend left in Israel and of family asking her to come home peppered the rest of her performance, drawing in the audience until their hands, voices and feet were at her mercy.
Next up, she performed the catchy track “Come Home,” her whimsical and bluesy number “Never Change,” and the wistful tracks “Paris” and “Lonely.” She wrapped up the evening with the upbeat “Stupid Goal” and “Come to the River,” leaving what would seem to be a massive elephant in the room. Was she going to avoid singing the song that had propelled her career?
After briefly leaving the stage, she returned for an encore that inevitably included her beautifully rendered hit “New Soul,” along with her version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” bringing the evening full circle with yet another creative cover. She proved once again that her artistic flair could not to be minimized to a perfectly orchestrated Apple campaign.

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Sarah McMahon-Sperber November 16, 2011 - 22:01

Great Picture Credits by Shai Shotts.

Drexel Manigat November 17, 2011 - 22:47

Wow. What an excellent photograph!


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