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Pop Montreal, Day 6

  • 6th Oct, 2005 at 11:10 PM

Irving Fields
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Last Thursday, as I was chatting with Joe Cobden, he mentioned that he would be hosting Monday's show. I told him I'd be interested in seeing that, and he promised that it would be an incredible show.

So on Monday evening, I arrived at the Théâtre National a little late and bought myself a ticket. Then I sneaked in the concert hall, where I found a seat close to the front.

Up on stage, seated at a grand piano, was Irving Fields who had flown in from New York. He's gotten pretty old now, but his fingers flew nimbly over the keyboard. That man, when he's playing the piano, is still so full of life. Between songs, he'd talk to the audience like a Jewish grandfather, about the past and the present and the story of his life.

He played selections from Broadway musicals, a mix of classical arrangements for piano, and some of the songs he composed. After every piece, the audience would just burst into applause, and he held us all in fascination as he talked to us. Here he was, passing on this oral tradition of the beginnings of popular music, to the younger generation.

When he had finished, he bowed to a full hall giving him a roaring, standing ovation. He played a wonderful encore that got him another standing ovation that lasted minutes upon minutes. I had never seen someone so happy, so ecstatic in my life before. We clapped and hollered and cheered; and he wept tears of joy. It was beautiful.

Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

After a short intermission, Joe introduced Gonzales by his real name. He started out simply and elegantly, but eventually a childish trickster appeared. He couldn't help but throw in little musical jokes as he played; only a few of which I grasped. But the rest of the audience found it delightfully amusing.

He's a great pianist and hammered out some very nice tones, on his childhood piano no less. My french is not very good, but I caught the fact that they had brought the upright on stage up from his parents' basement. He did a very interesting performance: a song transposed freely from major to minor, a sing-a-long, a song completely in the dark, and a duet with a man from the audience who was instructed to randomly play with one finger.

Gonzales also got a standing ovation from the audience, although I expect he is more accustomed to such praise. One of his encore songs was a brief summary of absolutely every piece he had played during the show. This was quite amusing, especially when he called out for the lights to turn off.

Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Most people left after the Gonzales show, since it was already midnight. But there were those that stayed for the next act. I stepped out and bought one of Mr. Field's CDs, told him how much I enjoyed his set, and he was happy to sign my copy.

I sat down in the front row, as the house was mostly empty. This show was, I guess the correct word is directed, this show was directed by Socalled: a Montréal hip-hop klezmer artist. It wasn't a very normal show as he had a bunch of friends go up on stage to jam with him. There was a guy with a sitar, that I had seen before. There were two violinists, a saxophone player, a superb drummer, and some singers.

In the middle of the show, Socalled asked if Mr. Fields was still around, and he was, and they got together and jammed out a song. Then Gonzales also showed up and played. It really seemed more like a musical party than a performance, which was all right because it seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves. Especially since they dragged out Daniel Seligman, creative director for Pop Montreal, who got a round of applause.

After the show, I talked to Ezra, a videographer who was there filming the entire thing. He knew Socalled outside of this show, and he films documentaries. I'm meeting lots of incredibly interesting people, just by talking to them after shows.

Phew. That's it for Pop Montreal, which was a whirlwind of music experience. I think I'll do this again next year, but perhaps buy a pass so that things will be more economical.