Montréal Live Music: Francofolies Experience


When Team GDW saw that both the Montréal Francofolies festival and Festival Folk sur le Canal were taking place over the same weekend, the decision to drive 560 miles for some music was easily agreed upon.  L has mentioned several times in this blog of how Francofolies was a huge influence in her love for all things French-Canadian, and wanted to scratch that musical itch once again. While we only had a limited few days (the festival ran for almost 2 weeks), the decision of when to attend was made incredibly easy by the fact that Daniel Bélanger would be live at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier during the final weekend of the event, and would be the biggest draw for us.

Arriving in Montreal late on Thursday afternoon, we walked the few blocks from our hotel and quickly immersed ourselves into the Québecois musical culture.  This was not a challenge for us, as we enjoy Francophone music from Québec, and remain happy to include this particular niche on our blog.  Of course, we missed out on some of our favorite artists who played prior to our visit, but embraced the opportunity to see Juno award winner Laurence Nerbonne on this beautifully sunny evening.’

With her brand of pop-electronica, Laurence delighted the crowd with the popular hits from her debut album “XO.”   The crowd certainly reveled in “Si ton couer bat” and “Nos coeurs,” which led to my first impression of her sound being a combination of early Marie Mae (the poppy “Inoxydable,” as opposed to the later rock crossover) and later Ariane Moffatt.  And I am pleased to report that Nerbonne not only demonstrated such influences, but stayed true to her own sound and carved her own identity in the process.  Her Juno status was clearly well-deserved, and her collaboration with a variety of guest vocalists certainly reinforced her abilities.  The upbeat rap provided by Lary Kidd on “Balade Luxueu$e” demonstrated an ease of transition between genres, while a duet with popular Québecois artist Yann Perreau on “Absinthe” proved that she has earned her time in the spotlight amongst the well-established names in this scene.

With a polished, high-energy show, and the addition of both guest vocalists and a dramatic dance troupe, Laurence Nerbonne proved very entertaining on the live stage.  Her talent and cross-generational appeal certainly demonstrated having the tools to become a strong force on the Québecois music scene.

We ventured back to the Francofolies festival upon our return from the Folk Festival on Saturday evening, raring and ready for the main event: Daniel Bélanger live at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier.  With his most recent release “Paloma,” Daniel was no doubt touring to promote the new material.  He would also delight with some of his biggest hits that were an absolute delight to finally have the opportunity to hear live.  With his full band in tow, Daniel would come out with all guns blazing, and would keep up the tempo for the entire performance, breaking occasionally with a slower song to allow the audience time to get their heart-rates back down to a healthy normal.

Leading off with “Tout viendra s’effacer,” Bélanger and his band would heavily favor the Paloma release, adding the new tracks “Il y a tant a faire,” “Metamorphose,” “Ere de glace,” and the title track “Paloma.”  Both he and the band played through these numbers effortlessly, showing signs of having crafted these tunes with much time on the road.  Naturally, he would intermix tracks that have carved his path on the music scene, returning to old favorites such as “Sortez-moi de moi,” “Rêver mieux,” “Opium,” and the toe-tapping “Cruel.” Even after an obligatory encore with his full band, the packed house at the  auditorium within the Place Des Arts complex were not quite ready to let Monsieur Bélanger leave just yet.  Returning alone with his acoustic guitar, Daniel would perform an absolutely perfect rendition of the huge hit “La Folie en quatre” to appease the crowd and send everybody home.

Both Daniel and his quartet performed flawlessly all evening, and cycled through material both old and new with ease.  The performance certainly capped our weekend and left us on a high, with a strong desire to want to catch up with Daniel Bélanger again in the future.  And as we exited Place Des Arts, Francofolies was just warming up, with hordes of people making their way downtown to catch the music, the festival, and the sense of belonging that draws you to the music.  Meandering our way to head out, we took delight in hearing Dubmatique performing on one of the stages behind us, and the joyful noises generated by the huge crowds that were clearly enjoying the show.  Thousands of festival fans were congregated and security presence was notable, but we saw nor experienced nothing negative.  Just a downtown festival in the heart of a big city attracting people who were there to have fun, fraternize with friends, and enjoy a great selection of live Québecois music.  Team GDW will certainly be back to experience both the city of Montréal and the Francofolies event again.

~ M

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