1883 Magazine

“Spectacular, spectacular! No words of the vernacular, can describe this great event, you’ll be dumb with wonderment.” Only the extravagance of Moulin Rouge can describe Woodkid taking over Brixton Academy on Wednesday. Tweets squawked “this show is not just for the ears and eyes. It takes over your whole body. If you weren’t there, you missed the extraordinary.” Hyperbolic these comments may seem, but nothing could prepare me for the performance I was about to see. 


You might know of Woodkid’s work before became: Woodkid. We all remember the opulent Lana Del Rey video for “Born to Die” – Lana on a throne with two tigers casually by her side. We recall the stylistically brilliant “Take Care”, Rihanna and Drake: intimacy, bulls and mountains. And let’s not forget Katy Perry’s vintage be-young-for-ever “Teenage Dream”. Well Woodkid, AKA Yoann Lemoine, directed all of them. I was unaware of his directing talents before I attended the show – bad journalism on my part – so I wasn’t prepared for what was about to unfold.

Woodkid is a wonder-kid, clearly. The French visual artist seems to be able to turn his hand to anything, and directing music videos obviously wasn’t stimulating enough. So Yoann turned the camera around and pointed it at himself. The tale of a music video extraordinaire turned full-blown music artist, Woodkid apparently picked up a banjo on set for a video, then his talent was realised. But from the magnificence of his visual art, his music wasn’t going to be a one-man-band-banjo number. Think organs, huge drums, brass bands and grand orchestras. Add that to his visual masterpieces and Yoann has created a musical artistic landscape that makes him quite frankly, epic.

A mammoth 3D image of a cathedral was projected onto the stage at Brixton Academy. A camera slowly moved through the cathedral, and the audience was able to walk through the image, with the sunlight seeping through the windows and coming alive via the stage lights. The BBC Concert Orchestra were revealed and in a shadow Woodkid appeared on the stage. Wearing a snapback, gold chain, sporting a bushy beard and very small in stature, I’m sure everyone’s first thought was how could this guy command such a spectacle? But when he broke into his alluring French soft but gravelly voice, his authority was logical. 


I can’t say I’ve listened to classical music recently and been totally spellbound. But modern classical, what does that even mean? Woodkid has created a niche that channels the beautiful opulence of Russian composers, but with harsh, epic drums, and of course very French tempting vocals. Trying to pluck my music journalism vocabulary and push a few genres together, I couldn’t for the life of me put this one into a box. Woodkid has been described as neofolk, baroque pop, but what’s that? Maybe I’ll try with orchestral nouveau - chill/avant-garde dance – but it was more like Lord Of The Rings on a rave in the clouds. Take note Wikipedia.

The graphics and music only got more extravagant as the show went on. The cathedral turned into ambitious futuristic cities, with the camera slowly moving through the image like an Imax film. Woodkid charmed the audience with his sincerely humbled words, and of course, his French-ness. However, his soft voice was at times was drowned out by the roar of the orchestra, but his energy dominated the audience. At some points he just let the orchestra do their thing, whilst he stood still at the front of the stage on a raised platform, with his arm out, like the Statue of David or some Roman Emperor. It was arrogant, but he definitely had a right to be arrogant.


Woodkid saved the song everyone had been waiting for until the end, naturally. “Run Boy Run” has featured on O2 adverts and if you don’t think you know it, I guarantee you do. The spectacular music video, created by Woodkid of course, was nominated for Best Short Form Music Video at the 2013 Grammy Awards. It features a young boy running from an array of scary monsters, perhaps a portrayal of the young Yoann running from his demons. But this performance of it was a marathon. It was one of those moments when music completely transcends space and time, and your imagination explodes. I’m not exaggerating, I assure you. The crowd didn’t want this moment to end. They sang back the song, again and again. Woodkid finished, then he got his band to keep playing it, again and again. It was emotional, exhilarating, and moving. Everyone smiled, and they couldn’t stop. Woodkid had unmasked everyone’s hidden ecstasy.

In short, it was a tremendous, extraordinary, imagination stirring, mind-bending experience. If you ever have the opportunity to go and see Woodkid, don’t miss it. You could regret it forever. 

Words by Elspeth Merry

Debut album The Golden Age is out now via itunes


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