Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

426

Montreal Jazz Festival Day 6: July 3, 2007

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5-1 | Day 5-2 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 10 | Day 11


The middle day of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal is typically a transitional day with no indoor ticketed events. Instead, vistors get to choose from a series of free shows on the seven outdoor stages, situated throughout six square city blocks that are closed off during the festival, in the heart of the city's downtown.


This year Day Six broke from convention by featuring one ticketed event—the legendary Van Morrison, but the real attraction was the festival's second of three Grand Évenément General Motors (General Motors Big Events), taking place on the largest outdoor stage, Scéne General Motors. The festival is renowned for a palpable vibe that, despite the sometimes massive numbers of people on the streets, carries assurances that it's not just safe, it's relaxed and friendly. Day Six's Grand Évenément featured singer/saxophonist Seun Kuti and his fifteen-piece Egypt '80 group in a hundred-minute performance that combined booty-shaking Afrobeats with the kind of outdoor spectacle for which the festival is famous the world over. Where else can you find, at times, over 100,000 people on the street, yet security and crowd control being so well-executed (and, for the most part, completely invisible) that all a vistor has to do is get excited and have a great time?

Seun Kuti & Egypt '80
Seun Kuti & Egypt '80





Kuti is the son of the late Fema Kuti, and after an introductory instrumental led by the group's baritone saxophonist, he took to the stage for a show that focused on the music of his father and his own original songs. Politically charged, but in the best possible way, the show was a celebration of African culture while delivering strong messages about the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing its people. At one point Kuti introduced a song by explaining, "In my country [Nigeria], the people don't think about politics, they don't think about sociology, they just try to survive." In another introduction he spoke about a bridge, underneath which he found people "pissing in the water, shitting in the water, bathing in the water, drinking the water..." The message was crystal clear, but delivered through such infectious music that, rather than proselytizing with a big stick, Kuti engaged the audience in a positive way making his message all the stronger.



With a large band consisting of baritone and tenor saxophonists (in addition to Kuti's alto), trumpet, two guitars, bass, drums, four percussionists and three backup singers (and, late in the set, an additional six dancers), the grooves were relentlessly upbeat and joyous, though the set was organized so that it flowed naturally and dynamically from start to finish. The wealth of polyrhythms from the drummer and percussionists created powerful rhythms that had the audience of over 100,000 dancing the entire time. While the songs could be considered simplistic, consisting almost entirely of long vamps, the arrangements were so vivid, so bright and buoyant that they never wore out their welcome. Kuti himself is a charismatic figure yet he was able to direct the audience' attention to other parts of the stage, ensuring that all the members of the group, at some point, were in the spotlight.

Seun Kuti & Egypt '80

While there was the expected audience participation, clapping and singing along to some of the songs, the most memorable moment was when Kuti encouraged the audience to get out their cellphones, turn them on, and raise them in the air. Watching tens of thousands of people do it set a new precedent, eliminating the days of lighting a match or holding a lighter, to be replaced now with the longer-lasting (and brighter) lights of electronic devices.



Throughout the show there were visuals happening everywhere you looked. On scaffolds throughout the festival site additional dancers, in increasing numbers, were spotlighted high in the air. Images, including an animated Afrobeat logo and the message "Music is the Weapon," were projected onto the side of the Hyatt Regency hotel, while a sophisticated lighting show kept things exilharating onstage. At the start of the show, when the baritone saxophonist brought the band on one-by-one, a brief firework explosion above the stage matched each new introduction.

Seun Kuti & Egypt '80 Seun Kuti & Egypt '80



But the best, as always, was saved for last. Clearly confident that the audience wouldn't let them go without at least one encore, the finale featured a fireworks show scattered throughout the site. It wasn't just impressive in its scope, but also in the way that the fireworks were synchronized with the music. The festival's Grand Évenément presentations have always been about spectacle, but what is most remarkable is how, year after year, they manage to create for ever larger crowds larger-than-life events that are always distinct and highly memorable. Anyone who was on the street for Seun Kuti & Egypt '80 went home from an experience that will not be forgotten soon.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook Live Reviews Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "BAN BAM: Music Talking" Live Reviews BAN BAM: Music Talking
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 7, 2017
Read "Jazzahead! 2017" Live Reviews Jazzahead! 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "The Donny McCaslin Group at The Arden Gild Hall" Live Reviews The Donny McCaslin Group at The Arden Gild Hall
by Mike Jacobs
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Instant Composers Pool at The MAC" Live Reviews Instant Composers Pool at The MAC
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 8, 2017