Friday, September 16, 2016

Yael Naim at The Hotel Café, 9-15-16 Concert Review

Yael Naim performing "Make A Child"
Last night Yael Naim put on an absolutely fantastic show at The Hotel Café, completely owning the crowd, never an easy feat in Los Angeles. She focused on material from her latest album, Older, which was just released in the U.S. (though was released in France last year). The band for this show was the trio of Yael Naim, David Donatien and Daniel Romeo.

After a good opening set by Adam Topol, Yael Naim took the stage at 8:12 p.m. She quietly walked on the stage and spoke a soft “Hello,” which hushed the noisy crowd. She then began the set with “If You Could See,” a version of which is on the deluxe edition of Older (which I need to get my hands on soon). For this song she played electric guitar, and David Donatien was on bass. She then switched to keyboard and glockenspiel for “I Walk Until,” with David on the drum kit, and Daniel Romeo joining them on bass.  “I Walk Until” is the opening track of Older, and it’s a song I love. Daniel Romeo provided some really nice accents on bass. They followed that with “Make A Child,” also from Older. Yael began this one with a keyboard solo, with little touches on bass by Daniel – a great intro. She then paused before starting the main body of the song, and the room was completely silent, which is amazing (seriously, I can’t stress this enough, what a rare thing it is for an audience to be that attentive, for everyone to be in the moment and focused; it shouldn’t be rare, of course, but it is). This was a joyful, powerful performance of “Make A Child.” After that one, she asked for more volume in the monitor, and then offered a quiet “Hello, L.A.” I don’t know if the low volume when she spoke was deliberately designed to draw us in, but it certainly had that effect.

It also then surprised the audience when she really belted out certain lines of the next song, “Dream In My Head.” She started this one with a keyboard solo too, then delivered the first lines a cappella. And wow, she made a really strong connection with the audience in that moment. She sang a few lines a cappella near the end as well. But in the middle she really put a lot of power behind her vocals. This was an incredible rendition, including some great stuff on bass too, one of the highlights of the night. She followed that with another highlight, “Coward,” the song that first got me really interested in her. On the album, she is backed by a choir on this song, and I was wondering how effective the song would be without those singers backing her. Well, I shouldn’t have been concerned. In fact, David and Daniel left the stage for this song, and Yael performed it solo, and it was a haunting, emotional, gorgeous rendition. Yael did the backing vocals herself, and delivered the power of the choir with just her one voice. Incredible.

David and Daniel then returned to the stage for the first cover of the night, Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” I’m not really a Britney Spears fan (though I admit I do own one of her CDs – Greatest Hits: My Prerogative), but I don’t think you have to be a Britney Spears fan to enjoy what Yael Naim does with her song. First of all, I love what David does on drums. And then partway through the song, Yael directly engaged the audience, getting them to repeat “Now.” It was actually a fun and funny moment, and the audience got really into it. “Show me that you’re ready now.” By the way, Yael Naim did include “Toxic” on one of her earlier albums. It was after “Toxic” that Yael Naim talked to the audience, telling the crowd, “We are very happy to be here.” She spoke about the new album, and about the birth of her first child. While she spoke, Daniel played bass, almost making it a spoken word piece.

They then did a couple of other songs from the new CD – “Trapped” and “Walk Walk.” During “Walk Walk,” she walked out into the audience, getting more participation from the crowd. (I think she was able to get more from the audience at this venue than any other artist I’ve ever seen perform there.) By the way, there was also some great work on drums on this song. Yael returned to the keyboard, and introduced “New Soul” by saying “Maybe you know this one.” Indeed, the audience did, and they sang along. It’s a happy, catchy song, and that’s how she ended the set.

There is something strange about Los Angeles audiences, and it varies from venue to venue, but they often don’t expect encores, and so won’t clap all that long for one. The applause started to die down a bit, but then became a steady clap, and Yael Naim returned to the stage a minute or so later.  She performed “Ima” solo on glockenspiel. This is another tune from Older. She then switched to guitar for “Yashanti,” with David and Daniel joining her. After hearing her belt out certain songs, it was interesting to hear her whisper “One second,” while tuning her guitar. She then did another cover, this time Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” For this, Daniel left the stage, and Yael played guitar and David played glockenspiel. Yael and David then concluded the night with “Older,” the title track from the new CD, with David playing keyboard. The show ended at 9:31 p.m.

Set List
  1. If You Could See
  2. I Walk Until
  3. Make A Child
  4. Dream In My Head
  5. Coward
  6. Toxic
  7. Trapped
  8. Walk Walk
  9. New Soul 
  1. Ima
  2. Yashanti
  3. Crazy
  4. Older
Here are a few photos from the show:

"If You Could See"
"Walk Walk"

If you get the chance to see Yael Naim in concert, I highly recommend you do so. Tonight she is playing in Boulder, and tomorrow in Portland, Oregon. She then goes to Israel and then back to France. But it looks like she’ll be doing a couple of shows in New York in December.

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