Bourne's Montreal: Les Grands Evenements, Champion
July 7, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Several spectacular concerts, Les Grands Evenements, headline the Festival International du Jazz de Montreal every year. These are held on the main stage of the Quartier des Spectacles, on what is now called the Scene TD after the festival's principal sponsor, TD Bank.
I've lost count of all the Grand Events I've attended through the years, but there have been plenty that have been unforgettable. Cirque du Soleil celebrated the festival's 20th and 25th anniversaries with circus bands and singers, clowns and contortionists, tumblers and death-defying daredevils.
On an evening after Brazil won the World Cup, a show of Latin hip-hop was highlighted by beach balls of the earth colored Brazil's green and yellow bouncing everywhere around tens of thousands partying like Carnaval.Allen Toussaint and Trombone Shorty were stars of a belated Mardi Gras, complete with a parade of floats driven up from New Orleans.
Pat Metheny climaxed a week of concerts with some of his favorite musicians (Toots Thielemans, Enrico Rava, Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman) with his Group playing an almost 3-hour non-stop phantasmagoria. Stevie Wonder played jazz classics of John Coltrane and Chick Corea, sang his own classics, and sang along with the voice of his friend Michael Jackson as rain fell like tears from heaven.
Champion, best of Montreal's electro-DJ's, also performed in the rain, alone on the stage, scurrying back and forth, generating grooves and synthesized melodies with computers, samplers, beat-boxes, and other electronic whiz-bangs, all beneath a giant plastic tarp.
I missed this year's Grands Evenements (Feist, Wax Tailor, Amadou and Mariam) while going to concerts indoors all three evenings, but I got to enjoy, without getting rained on, the return of Champion.
"Champion et ses G-Strings avec I Musici" sold out the festival's biggest hall, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Champion first appeared alone with a guitar and sang what sounded like a drunken cowboy song, then the curtain opened on a stage full of guitars (the five "G-Strings") and a classical orchestra (the strings and woodwinds of I Musici) -- the guitarists often rock-ishly quivering, the classicists looking serene.
Champion stood at the musical epicenter, playing what looked like one or two electronic mini-consoles, playing what sounded like a rhythmic pulse more than a back-beat, all while the couple dozen strings bowed long sonorous motifs more than melodies. A bassoon and flute fluttered across like birds. A trombonist played a beautiful aria. Repeated motifs sounded like water rippling over rocks. Not splashing. Flowing gracefully.
And then they rocked. A singer with a stratospheric tenor burst full-tilt onto the stage. I have no idea what he was singing about. Didn't matter.
I can't say I even liked this music. Didn't matter. Champion's pulses became a thunder, the orchestra bowed strings and bopped heads, everyone in the audience was up -- all ages, kids and their moms and their dads, ex-hippies maybe, all bopping.
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