Frenchwoman Emilie Simon performs at Yugong Yishan as part of the JUE music and arts festival. Photo taken March 20, 2015. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]
By William Wang
Beijing has an ever-growing reputation as an international city, and its population of French-speakers is significant. It was clear from all the rolling R's heard in the packed crowd at Yugong Yishan last Friday that many of them came out to see frenchwoman Emilie Simon's concert.
It was Simon's second time in China, both times brought out to participate in the JUE music and arts festival. The first time she came five years ago, she was particularly impressed. ¡§Playing here and having the opportunity to meet my audience here, because there were actually people listening to my album on the other side of the world, it was almost magical. Being there and sharing those moments with a Chinese audience was very strong for me.¡¨
Simon's tour of China this time was again full of surprises. For her show in Wuhan, the stage manager and most of the gear ended up getting flown to the wrong city. ¡§That was epic and very interesting because we ended up playing ten different versions of the songs we never rehearsed.¡¨ But Simon wasn't complaining at all, concluding that for her and her band the experience ¡§was wonderful.¡¨
This time through China, Simon performed a collection of songs spanning her 12 year career. Her 2014 album Mue figured prominently in the set list, richly crafted songs where synthesizers and programmed beats fade more into the background, and acoustic instruments edge forwards toward her cooing voice.
Despite constantly being labeled an ¡§electronic¡¨ musician, she personally doesn't identify with the term. ¡§It's always very difficult for me to talk about [being] electronic or not electronic,¡¨ she confessed in softly accented English. ¡§I like freedom. I like the feeling that I can just do anything, anytime.
¡§I use electronic tools the same way I use acoustic tools... For me, they're just different colors. My music is a hybrid... The computer gave me the freedom to do my own music, my own sound and I'll always be so grateful to the computer world.¡¨
Her show at Yugong Yishan proved the scope of her horizon. She strummed her semi-acoustic Fender. She twiddled knobs on her cyberpunk arm equipment sending her vocals echoing off into the space. And of course she rocked out covering the Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog.
She also coquettishly sang a few solo songs, seated off the side of the stage. All of her songs were well-received, though the crowd was more energized by the more upbeat (and incidentally electronicky) songs.
Madame et Son Orchestre opened the night with a series of swingin' old school French tracks. Canadian-turned-Beijinger Marie-Claude LeBel and her three accompanying musicians entertained the crowd with their gypsy-jazz and few classic French chansons.
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