Rick Keene Music Scene – Top Ten Concerts of 2019

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.

9. Foreigner

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.

7. Whitehorse

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.

3.Bryan Adams

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.

1.Peter Frampton

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.

Coming Soon – Top Ten Interviews of 2019

Smoke Meat Pete Here

Rick Keene Music Scene – Top Ten Interviews of 2018

They say talk is cheap …

That may be the case many times yet when music is involved – talk is an education.

In the past year, discussions took place with eighty musicians. Add multiple chats with engineers, producers or people in the music business; the list is long and informative.

All these moments above are meant to be a platform to educate anyone who listens or reads. A chance for up and coming musicians to learn and established artists to teach.

Of all the interviews in the past year – the top ten have been chosen for different reasons. All of the interviews gave value yet below are the unique ones.

Please enjoy and check archives to listen.

Top Ten Interviews 2018

10. Colin James

The veteran Canadian Blues guitarist is always down to earth and honest. Entering into his fifties, James has a different outlook on life including the need to not ‘disguise’ anything anymore. His knowledge of The Blues’ history is vast and his energy to share is immense. A new album and a new tour are the tools James uses to carry on …

Colin James

9. Dweezil Zappa

It is not often one has an opportunity to speak with Rock n Roll royalty. The offspring of Frank Zappa is just that. Listening to Dweezil speak of his late father is a privilege. Only a son can relate the musicianship and thinking process behind a legend with direct knowledge. Dweezil’s own music is also related through the lens of his Dad. Frank – the ultimate muse.

8. George Thorogood

George Thorogood

Speaking to a man who is now a Rock n Roll legend is as advertised. Chatting with a man who learned his chops playing with the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Keith Richards is like earning an honorary degree. Blunt, to the point and honest – Lonesome George should not be his moniker. Long passed the days of not paying rent, Thorogood still conjures a devil-may-care attitude without the worry of going ‘out the door’. Everybody is funny and George is very funny too.

7. Kim Mitchell

The legendary musician and songwriter ( and former DJ) is a pleasure. Witty, well informed and a teenager at heart – the former front-man of Max Webster is the quintessential Canadian artist. Engaging and curious, Kim interviews back as he weaves his tales of lore. An insight into his near fatal heart attack – profound.

6. Malcolm Bruce

The son of legendary Cream bassist Jack Bruce is a chip off the bass block. Acknowledging his Father’s legacy and passing it on is first on a creative and musical list. Growing up in Rock royalty has enabled Malcolm the inside education to relive Cream’s music and add to his own. World matters? Do not get the English gentleman going. Like his Father- a lot of smarts are going on above the Bass.

5. Jean -Marc Pisapia

The front-man for The Box is animated, intelligent and appreciative of all that came his way. A unique chat which places not only The Box in perspective; the music business as well. Interesting anecdotes regarding youth, age and Fatherhood. Rarely does a man whose career hit the pinnacle faster than a speeding pick accept the equally quick demise with such happiness and distinguished responses. Part of the reason The Box has resurfaced lately with talent and songwriting that cannot be denied.

4. Andy Kim

Andy Kim

On December 1st 2018 – Andy Kim was inducted onto Canada’s Walk of Fame. This follows his already life size presence in Canada’s Music Hall of Fame. Kim is one of few Canadians that have had nine singles in the Top Forty chart and whose music has been covered by every artist imaginable. John Lennon himself was a huge fan. Say no more …

3. Gary Petersen

The original and current drummer of The Guess Who has been drumming since the beginning of Rock n Roll in the fifties. A survivor and a man whose (of late) physical impediments do not slow him down. His band – The Guess Who rivaled The Stones and The Beatles in the late sixties and early seventies. A man who knows that ‘if it ain’t got that swing’ – it don’t mean a damn thing.

2. Myles Goodwyn

How many people do you know who front their band for over four decades? How many songwriters in Canada have carved such a unique place in music. How many people do you know who wrote a song which was the first Canadian video to be played on MTV? The multiple Juno award winner and a member of Canada’s Music Hall of Fame recently released a book and a new album which uncovers his first love The Blues.

Alan Parsons

The Beatles started it all and Alan Parsons was there. Along with Geoff Emerick and George Martin – Parsons worked on the albums Let It Be and Abbey Road. If that weren’t enough – Alan also worked on The Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd. Mr. Parsons then went on to write, produce and engineer one of the top bands of the eighties – The Alan Parsons Project. One of the most sought after technicians in the music business and a man with an astute ear for music.

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Rick Keene Music Scene – Top Ten Concerts of 2018

Attending all live music in Montreal is impossible.

Practically every crook and nook contains rhythms and vibes. World music, Blues, Rock – you name it, music is alive and well in the city .

Not all live music is performed by local musicians. Regularly – like pirates from a distant land; musicians arrive. They rape and pillage the souls of Montrealers and then they are gone. Gold pieces filling their guitar cases.

Arriving with a Top Ten Concerts List is not possible if integrity is involved. The simple fact that many live shows were missed adds to the incomplete puzzle. The most beautiful woman in the world, after all – is a choice ripe in location.

Please dissect the Top Ten Concerts of 2018 below with the knowledge they have been chosen from a well of sixty. Deep enough to siphon an amount comparable to the elite.

Top Ten Concerts of 2018

10. Steve Hackett

The former guitar player from Genesis loves playing in Montreal and Montreal loves having him. There are few guitar players in the world that play better than their glory years. Age is not kind to many. Hackett’s playing filled with an ever – growing knowledge and his touring band; second to none. Within the realm of Place des Arts, perfection is continually aimed for and forever obtained. A must see every time Steve is here.

9. Kim Churchill

The multi-talented singer/ songwriter from Down Under is ( for the most part) under the radar. Such is the sad state of mass media when artists that possess more talent than Boy George, scrape and claw to make a living. Kim’s live show is filled with musical and physical energy as Churchill trades keys, guitars, beat boxes and dancing with himself. The tunes are filled with Kim’s vocals emerging from his soul. Ballads mirror the journey of an artist in search of knowledge as he travels the globe.

8. Dr. Lonnie Smith

How many artists have mastered their craft for fifty years as a live performer? How many have mastered their instrument and continue to gain praise and achievements into their golden age? Dr. Lonnie Smith is the most sought after Hammond B3 player on the planet. Mostly due to not only hard work, Smith maintains an ability to grow by reaching into multiple genres and artists. Dr. Smith put on a Jazz clinic at Le Gesu as part of The Montreal International Jazz Festival. Every great commercial keyboard player on a Rock n Roll / Pop / Blues list will be erased following a performance by Dr. Lonnie Smith.

7. Jack Broadbent

Broadbent contains no bells nor whistles. A man, a chair, a guitar and a beer. Witnessing a live show by Broadbent conjures images of the old Delta Blues guys who laid down the framework for all music today. Bottleneck slide, a raspy voice and tunes dark like the night and crisp like a cold grey dawn. Songwriting combined with acute covers to remind everyone where Jack came from and at the same time – evolving into the future based on the past.

6. Jim Cuddy Band

Canadian music is filled with roots. Country, Folk and Blues intertwined with the vast landscape of Canada looming in the background like a canvas painted by the Group of Seven. Add Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall and Jim’s two up and coming sons – the evening was as pure as pure could be. Every artist on stage taking turns in the spotlight showcasing their ability to headline on their own. Jim Cuddy has assembled a dream band to distract from his Blue Rodeo job. Not a bad side gig.

5. Jordan Officer

Quebec’s own Jordan Officer has made the leap. Opening up for one of his boyhood idols, Officer more than held his own as the opener for George Thorogood. Those in attendance unfamiliar with the most talented guitar player in Quebec and student of the Blues left with a deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces.The trio combined with Officer’s ability to play guitar unlike all Blues players in the province ( fiddle as well), elevated music to an entire different level. Rarely does an opening act place immense pressure on the headliner. Thorogood and his Destroyers must have been shaking in their boots.

4. Steven Wilson

Cut from the Prog Rock cloth – Wilson (known mainly for his band Porcupine Tree) is a man who makes Dave Grohl appear talent-less. Mainstream gravitates towards the flavor of the moment and those willing to sell their souls. Wilson is a true artist along the lines of Brian Wilson (albeit in a different genre). An Engineer, a producer, a multi instrumentalist and a premiere songwriter who avoids the fame. His band – oozing musical integrity like a bleeding Van Gogh. Balladry interrupting perfectly crafted instrumental based high caliber Rock with a toe inside the Prog. A must see for all music fans.

3. Cecile Mclorin Salvant

If Cecile had arrived on the scene forty or fifty years ago, she would be revered like Etta James, Billie Holiday and Etta James (to name a few). Blessed with the voice of several angels – Salvant’s range is second to none. A no frills performer who sings for the right reasons. Combining the sweetness of honey and the strength of a whiskey straight up,Cecile’s performance as part of the Jazz Festival was an evening for purists. Salvant did not disappoint.

2. Beth Hart

Honesty is the best policy. Beth Hart is the most down to Earth raw female performer on the planet. Then she takes that integrity and sings with the same convictions. Listening to Hart is almost like witnessing an accident on the side of the road that never happens. Akin to Keith Richards’ about to fall down walk – Hart invites concern. Once she stops running and drops the scissors – the most natural voice in the universe becomes the star. Blues, Rock and Jazz-inspired tunes fill the night with wonderment. Talent oozes down the aisles as Hart follows the notes into the audience with love and appreciation. An interactive experience with Hart’s vulnerabilities as the headliner.

1.Ranee Lee

Montreal’s Queen of Jazz put on the most memorable performance this city has maybe ever seen. The day before her appearance at the Montreal international Jazz Festival – Ranee lost her musical muse and husband. A devastating moment for anyone and a life altering moment.

Under extreme emotional circumstances – Ranee decided the show must go on as her husband Richard would have wanted.

Any show completed would have gained a standing ovation due to the circumstances. Heartbreak on the sleeves and a hole in the heart can be the wind that pushes the tightrope walker off the thin line. A musical death would have been accepted without critique.

Ranee reached deep. Ranee reached long. Ranee reached hard. As if Richard was seated next to her – Lee put on the performance of a lifetime. Holiday, James, Washington – the ladies of Lee’s youth appeared live through Ranee’s vocals. The strength and the power increasing as the night went on. Lee’s passion for the history and the music growing stronger as the mountain of grief lay before her. The stamina not giving in to the tiredness she felt. The glow of her husband leading the way like the star of a musical Bethlehem guiding Ranee’s soul through the dark.

One evening when the realities of life could not be avoided changed The Montreal International Jazz Festival into a mystical place. One woman who took on the realities of life with courage transformed The Montreal International Jazz festival into Magic.

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