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 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2017
by John Kelman
Published: June 29, 2017
Read Jim Beard And Jon Herington At The Kennett Flash Live Reviews Jim Beard And Jon Herington At The Kennett Flash
by Mike Jacobs
Published: June 29, 2017
Read Suoni Per Il Popolo 2017 Live Reviews Suoni Per Il Popolo 2017
by Mike Chamberlain
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues Live Reviews Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues
by Walter Atkins
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Chris Oatts Quintet at Chris’ Jazz Cafe Live Reviews Chris Oatts Quintet at Chris’ Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "The Billy Hart Quartet at the 21c Museum Hotel" Live Reviews The Billy Hart Quartet at the 21c Museum Hotel
by Joseph Boselovic
Published: September 28, 2016
Read "Penang Island Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Penang Island Jazz Festival 2016
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "McCoy Tyner Tribute at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews McCoy Tyner Tribute at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: July 4, 2016
Read "T Sisters at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews T Sisters at SFJAZZ
by Asher Wolf
Published: July 21, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.