Daniel Bélanger: Live at National Arts Centre

Daniel Bélanger - Live in Ottawa

Following the release of his JUNO-Award nominated “Mercure en mai” album back in October, acclaimed Montréal folk-pop rocker Daniel Bélanger announced an extensive 2023 tour across his native province of Québec. Scrutinizing those dates a little more, we soon discovered that Daniel would make a brief sojourn into Ontario, to perform one of these shows at The National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Having not seen Daniel live in concert for many years now (from up in the rafters at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier in Montréal back in June 2017), we snagged a pair of orchestra level floor tickets for this event once they became available back in December.

“Mercure en mai” finds Bélanger returning to his musical roots, following his three eclectic previous releases – notably the cinematic instrumental project “Travelling” (2020), the dreamy “Paloma” (2016), and the surprising rockabilly nature of “Chic de ville” (2014). Indeed, the 2017 concert we attended was part of his promotional tour for “Paloma,” and on that given night, there was a very strong emphasis on the new material, with a few classic hits woven in for good measure. Expecting a repeat performance for this latest collection just last month at the NAC, we would soon learn this would not be the case – with Daniel and his touring band mixing just five new cuts into a 19-track set-list that featured an amazing selection of popular hits.

Daniel Bélanger - Live in Ottawa

As the lights faded, and “Apertura” blasted from the PA system, Daniel received a hearty welcome from a packed Southam Hall – the largest and most majestic of the four performance halls within the NAC complex.  Joined by bandmates Guillaume Doiron (guitar), Jérôme Beaulieu (keyboards), Philippe Brault (bass), and José Major (drums), the engaged audience were rewarded with a highly-energetic 1 hour and 40-minute performance. Never did we anticipate being privy to what could be best described as a ‘greatest hits’ show, but that is exactly what we received, and we LOVED every second of it.

Launching immediately into the new material, Daniel commenced with a fabulous rendition of “Soleil levant,” setting an immediate buzz, and followed shortly after with “Il faut s’accorder.” Other new cuts included “Dormir dans l’auto” (prior to which Daniel jested with the brief inclusion of covering The Beatles’ “Yesterday”) and a recent crowd favorite, “Avec des fleurs” – with the fifth and final album track appearing during the encore. The band would also draw strongly from Daniel’s 1996 “Quatre saisons dans le désordre” album, delivering some incredible versions of “Imparfait,” “Sortez-moi de moi,” and the very popular “Les deux printemps.”  Similarly, the ADISQ award-winning 2001 “Rêver mieux” album received plenty of attention, as the quintet performed immediately recognizable hits such as “Te quitter,” “Dans un spoutnik,” and “Intouchable et immortel” with meticulous precision.

Daniel Bélanger - Live in Ottawa

Adding a brief foray into the 2009 “Nous” album (“Tu peux partir”) and “Paloma” (“Il y a tant à faire”), crossing our fingers to witness anything from “Chic de ville” sadly did not come to fruition. But the ever-crafty Bélanger did toss a pretty significant curveball into the mix, surprising us with a completely unexpected performance of “Le triomphe d´une perruche” from “Travelling.” A spectacular full-stage effects show (split across several screens), featuring many of Daniel’s own artistic renderings, certainly added some panache – not only to this particular instrumental, but for the majority of the show. Does anything sound better than an almost silent house soaking up Daniel’s eerie whistles to close this number? Based on my own goosebumps (and I’ll be honest, fighting the tear ducts), I would say not – although one of his comedic moments would drop into place here, as the artist encouraged the room to return such whistles in kind, before being willing to wrap up the tune. The audience did not disappoint.

Closing the show with an incredibly rousing performance of “Fous n´importe où,” the band would take their bows and exit the stage. A standing ovation from the capacity crowd would naturally entice them back out (but not before a couple seated adjacent to us opted to leave – why???) for a two-song encore. And saving the absolute best until the very end, Bélanger and co. would send each and every one of us home on an emotional high – returning one last time to the “Rêver mieux” album for a stunning, pulse-racing, lump-in-your-throat delivery of the title track. What an amazing performance! This concert was totally worth the 485-mile drive to Canada’s capital city – and we can’t wait for the opportunity to catch up with Daniel again. Fortunately, we shall not have to wait over five years this time, as a Toronto show has since been added to the tour for September. You can bet your bottom dollar that we already have our tickets.

Set List:

  1. Soleil levant
  2. Chante encore
  3. Il faut s´accorder
  4. Sortez-moi de moi
  5. Il y a tant à faire
  6. Imparfait
  7. Te quitter
  8. Intouchable et immortel
  9. Dans un spoutnik
  10. Respirer dans l´eau
  11. Les temps fous
  12. Dormir dans l´auto
  13. Le triomphe d´une perruche
  14. Tu peux partir
  15. Au vent des idées
  16. Les deux printemps
  17. Fous n´importe où


  1. J´entends tout ce quie joue (dans ta tête)
  2. Rêver mieux

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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