No man can be everywhere.
A music fan, a radio guy or a journalist. It is impossible to attend all live shows which take place in Montreal. Venues such as L’Astral, Corona, Bell Center, Place Bell, Le Gesu, MTelus, Place des Arts – even Smoke Meat Pete. Live music is alive and well in Montreal and surrounding areas.
Every year since 2012 – I compile a list of the Top Ten Concerts which I attended. All genres, all venues were my place of study as I witnessed some of the best musical acts to pass through Montreal as well as local talent.
Without further ado – here is my list of …
Top Ten Montreal Concerts of 2019
10. Holly Cole Trio
Holly has taken a beating in the past decade. Her star falling from the ‘commercial graces’ as a younger generation moves in. At Le Ministere as part of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal – Holly surprised many. A new look but an old sound provided standards and new tunes the space in which the audience could breathe. No bells, no whistles and no egos on stage. Cole singing and the musicians playing. The way vocal jazz should be played.
Although Mick Jones is the only original member in the band – a great Rock n Roll show is a great Rock n Roll show.The list of bands with two hours of non stop hits can be written on a napkin. Foreigner is one of those bands who deliver the songbook of American Arena Rock with energy and passion. The most jaded or suspicious fan who attended the show at Place des Arts in March – left dancing and smiling as they left the building maneuvering the cold and ice.
8. Jake Clemons
The genes are there. Jake is the nephew of The Big Man – Clarence Clemons. Clarence has left for the big stage in the sky and Jake has replaced his uncle in Springsteen’s E Street Band. The name and the Sax are not the reason Jake puts on a great show. Great original tunes from his new album as well as playing keys, guitar and singing. The lyrics within his originals a message of peace and understanding in a world ripe with hatred. A passionate show not to be missed.
Luke and Melissa showed up at L’Astral with a band. A first time for this husband and wife duo who have taken Canada by storm in the past ten years. Normally the pair take care of all instruments in all their original tracks. Luke and Melissa exchanging roles on drums, keys and guitars with backtracks looping it together. Adding a drummer and a keyboard player gave the pair more freedom to concentrate on vocals, guitars and bass.Whitehorse were great before – it is now a different level entirely and the future seems brighter than ever.
6. George Benson
Well – who knew? Benson has written some of the most memorable tunes in history and at the age of seventy-six; he can still play the heck out of his guitar. Add his unwavering vocals and an elite backing band – Place des Arts was transformed into Broadway for one analytical musical experience as part of the Montreal Jazz Festival. Inspiring.
5. Buddy Guy / Colin James
The past few times in Montreal, Buddy was starting to ‘talk’ too much during shows. Preaching the history of The Blues as one of the last men standing. On the 6th of July, the night he received The B.B. King Award as part of The Montreal Jazz Festival – Buddy let his guitar playing speak loudly. Sure the preaching was still there and Buddy chooses opportune moments when to play and when to rest. He has earned that right and when he does play a lick or a solo – no guitar player in the world makes such a distinguished statement. Historical in song and historical in the ‘teachers’ who taught him. Historical and still writing history.
4. Michael Buble
I know what you are thinking. Buble is a treasure. A throwback to when singers were just singers. No critical social media audiences attacking everyone for everything. Buble’s show at The Bell Center with an orchestra and backup singers is a treat for the ears and eyes. A feel good evening with old fashioned Canadian humor, crowd interaction and a feeling of love. If a music concert had to replace a Stanley Cup final – Buble is the Conn Smythe winner.
Like Foreigner – Adams has the hits. No Canadian artist has been as commercially successful since 1980. Energy, ballads and memories engulfed The Bell Center for over two hours. Three chords never traveled so well outside The Rolling Stones’ bubble. Adams is a Canadian historical treasure and his legend and tunes will only get stronger as the current state of Rock n Roll pales in comparison to Adams’ energetic set-list. Add the immense love women and romantics have for Bryan’s love songs – a recipe for success.
2. Alan Parsons Live Project
The man engineered The Beatles’ album Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. If anyone knows music it is Alan Parsons. In February at Place des Arts, Parsons and his band of ‘gypsies’ delivered a lesson in the nuances of music. The softness – the flows and ebbs of an orchestral concert with a dabbing of Pop hits. Extreme vocals, extreme instruments enjoying and perfecting their individual places within each song. A masterpiece painted before a crowd equipped with the knowledge to appreciate and understand it all.
Everyone knows ‘the album’. Everyone is aware of the short and meteoric rise of Peter Frampton. Not everyone is ‘in the know’ of just how great a guitar player Frampton is. During The Montreal Jazz Festival and within Frampton’s Farewell Tour – Peter and his band awed the audience. Some punters there for the hits. Some audience members there for The Humble Pie catalog. Most there to witness a historic figure in Rock n Roll. The band rolled and Frampton rocked. Bluesy rock chords resonating throughout and perhaps the largest achievement was during Frampton’s homage to Chris Cornell during Black Hole Sun. A tip of the fedora goes to any artist who can evoke standing ovations from songs that many have not heard before. The audience came alive along with Frampton for the final time in Montreal and the final jaunt around the world.