The world-famous Montreal International Jazz festival kicked off the other night, with opening act Stevie Wonder. Literally ducking and weaving through the crowds of umbrella-wielding concertgoers got us to about 100m from the stage before we had to stop, not close enough to see the stage all that well, but in good view of one of the large projection screens placed along the length of the venue. While I’m not all that familiar with Stevie’s music, I found out that, as one might imagine, I knew more of his music than I thought I did. And as usually happens in this instance, it has prompted me to now (perhaps too late?) seek out and get to know his music better.
Waiting for the show to start
The crowd of 200,000 people filled the Place-des-Arts concert area and stretched backwards far up the street. Even in intermittent rain, the downtown was filled with people out to see the show.
The organizers, veterans now at the 30th annual Jazz festival, know how to put on a good free show. They made use of the adjacent buildings including the somewhat more distant Complex Desjardins tower, to project images on. It made for an event that expanded outward from the site of the concert and into the rest of the city.
The recent death of Michael Jackson prompted Stevie to address the crowd and to celebrate the art of a gifted musician and performer. At several points he paused his act to play some of MJ’s songs to the audience. He was visibly distressed at times but nevertheless continued the show, and towards the end played many of his best-known songs, which myself and the crowd really got into. Dampness and constantly getting bumped in the crowd made the experience not the most pleasant, but the opportunity to see a legend of music at his craft certainly made it worth the discomfort.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go listen to “Superstition” again.