As I’ve already written about several times on my blog, it’s always a pleasure to hear Le Vent du Nord perform–although this time, it was on a seriously rainy Wednesday night at the Rogue. Yet the loyal fans filled the place nonetheless!
This time too we actually were without Olivier Demers. If you’ve been following my posts and have seen my earlier Le Vent concert posts, you know Olo’s my favorite of all the members of the group! (And I’m not just saying that because he follows me on Facebook and therefore might actually read this. Auquel cas je dois dire SALUT OLO!)
But this time he had to stay home, due to having a death in his family. 🙁 He posted to his Facebook wall that his father had passed away just a couple of days before the show. (And I was simultaneously very sad to hear the news and a bit relieved to have been warned about it in advance, because if I’d shown up without knowing M. Demers wouldn’t be on hand, I would have been even sadder!)
So Le Vent had to pull in Jean-François Gagnon Branchaud as emergency backup fiddler. If you know Quebecois trad, you may well recognize his name as one of the two fiddlers currently playing with La Bottine Souriante, who also sings some lead on La Bottine’s last album. And if you know La Bottine, you know that anybody who plays for them is guaranteed to bring their A game to a stage. Jean-François did not disappoint, and so even though we all missed Olivier, it was still a delightful show!
Let’s get down to the details, shall we?
Vancouver-based friends Kate and Angela joined Dara and me for this show–the same friends who have also accompanied me to the Rogue for De Temps Antan. And, naturally, we also had
Our table did also of course include Jean-Claude, my mammoth. This time around I felt it was necessary to let Jean-Claude express the room’s sentiments about the absent M. Demers, to wit:
Kate told me on Facebook a few days beforehand that she’d been at another gig at the Rogue, and that the audience there had been asked who all was going to show up for Le Vent du Nord. The response was a great deal of enthusiastic cheering–and there was certainly a sizable crowd in the place! Enough that when our host for the evening came on stage to perform introductions, he told us that it was Wednesday night, it was pouring rain, and we still had a room full of people. “This band must be pretty darned good,” he concluded. He was not wrong.
Our host for the evening also had the good news that the Rogue was saved from extinction, and had found funding to continue being an awesome concert venue. To wit: YAY! Because it would make me very sad indeed if the Rogue evaporated. Vancouver is large, and it ain’t like there aren’t plenty of other concert venues there, but it has grown special to my heart. In no small part because of Le Vent. So yay, the Rogue gets to continue to exist! <3
Soon enough though we cut right to the chase and got les gars on stage, and the first set began!
Our opening numbers were “Noce tragique” and the instrumental “Cardeuse-Riopel”, both from the new album Têtu, of course. And since this was the Têtu tour, after the first couple of numbers, Nicolas came to the mike to ask us all if we knew what the word meant. Several audience members called out “headstrong”, on which Nico challenged us: “you are positive?” And he then sagely added that no French are ever stubborn. Uh-huh.
This led nicely into the introduction of Jean-François. And it was at this point that we were informed that he’d learned the material for the show in three days. I’d already known anybody who has the chops to play for La Bottine would be excellent, but to stuff a couple of sets’ worth of new material into your brain that fast, well enough to get on stage and perform it? DAMN SON.
Needless to say, the audience was quite impressed by hearing about this feat, and a lot of us clapped for it. At which point Simon wryly suggested, “Don’t applause yet till after the show!” Simon was, in fact, quite wry all throughout the show–and chatty and funny! That boy’s clearly gotten more comfortable with his English, to be able to jump in on the stage banter with Nico and Réjean. Good for him! It’s enough of a challenge to be able to be witty on stage in your native language, never mind a second one.
From there, the boys went into the beginnings of what proved a running gag throughout the show–their various thoughts on the title of the album. And in particular, what had apparently been a lively band debate about whether to have an ‘s’ on the end of the title or not. Olivier was quoted, and it was pointed out that Olo had opinions even if he wasn’t there.
(Dara and I did not actually get the significance of whether “Têtu” could have an s or not. Dara still has no French, and mine is still fairly shaky, so I didn’t know whether the word could be a noun as well as an adjective. I looked it up later, of course, and determined that this was in fact the case. That if you’re using the word as a noun, it means “someone who’s stubborn/headstrong”. Whether or not there are snarkier connotations in Quebec in particular, I will defer to the actual Quebecois speakers on that!
I should also mention that Jean-François didn’t stand out of the stage banter, either! He periodically threw commentary in, at which point Nico started telling him he was “fired”. Jean-François continued to be “fired” at least three or four times after that as the show proceeded. LOL.)
And then we went into “Confédération”. After which Nico took his turn to talk some more about the album title, and upon points of view. He tied that in with talking about how the outgoing PM (Harper) had wanted to throw a big national party for Canada’s 150th anniversary–yet from a Francophone point of view, Canada is actually 500 years old.
And from the First Nations point of view? “You get a different answer,” was Nico’s conclusion. Which led us into “La marche des Iroquois”–one of my top two favorite tracks off of Têtu at this point. I’d been half-afraid they wouldn’t do it without Olo, but they whipped it out anyway! \m/
“La marche”, as it does on the album, led right into “Papineau”. Which had all of the crackling energy in it that blew me away at last year’s Rogue show, and Jean-François certainly carried his end of the turlutte and of the podorythmie. BUT, I’ve seen Olo doing his podorythmie on this song and he’s got some particular syncopations when doing this live, rhythms I was missing. *sniff*
Réjean took the mike next, telling us all about how the band was starting its 14th year–and that in his experience, you have to choose your battles. So he was not getting into the “s or no s” debate, clearly. He was, however, going to get into singing lead for us. Namely, “Le souhait”, the song he sings lead on on the previous album, Tromper le temps! And as always, it is a pleasure to hear Réjean take the lead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that boy needs to sing more.
Next up: another instrumental set! “Le cœur en trois”, specifically. And I think it was right about here in the show’s proceedings that I suddenly realized, holy crap! Réjean was doing podorythmie! Not like this should be a surprise, mind you. I’d be willing to bet money that 95 percent of all Quebecois trad musicians are perfectly capable of doing the feet if they’re called upon to do so, and just might not sometimes on general grounds of instrument choices and whether or not they need to play standing up.
(Though I’d also be willing to bet money that it’d be tough to do podorythmie while you’re playing a hurdy-gurdy. But I digress!)
ANYWAY, I saw Réjean making with the feet, and that was awesome. Which was why I specifically tried to get a pic of it.
“Le cœur en trois” always leads into “Le cœur de ma mère”, of course–and this time was no exception. However, the lead-in for this song was different from what I’d seen the boys doing in the past. This time Nico told more of the backstory of how the song came to be, though he did also drop wry hints that people who needed the lyrics translated might not actually want to get their French-speaking friends to do that for them. (Cue me, of course, turning to Kate and Angela to whisper that this was the song about the guy whose lover demanded that he kill his mother and bring her heart to her, so that she could feed it to her dog. ;D Because I am nothing if not HELPFUL.)
Right around here was when the audience started getting livelier and the dance area in front of my chair started filling up more regularly. (The dance area which, I must add, was helpfully labelled “DANCE FLOOR” via a sign attached to a chair.) Kate started getting up and I boinged up to join her, though I’d been marshalling my energy since I knew “Lanlaire” was coming.
Next, in fact! More stage banter, in which Jean-François lamented “I don’t want to be fired anymore!” And Simon proceeded to inform us that “I am not headstrong! I’m the guy who takes care of the aesthetic!” He was firmly on Team No S in Têtu, in no small part because he felt having no s looked better on the album cover.
And then, of course, we got into “Lanlaire”. Very lively first-set closer, as always. And I was very satisfied to boing and sing the response lines. 😀
Then: set break!
When we came back for the second set, Nico started off by asking us “You know a little bit the story of Canada?” And then noting “You didn’t say yes!” He proceeded to regale us with the tale of how in olden times, Canada was a paradise! Tropical trees! Exotic birds! The maple syrup was flowing in the rivers! “And then the British arrived.”
Jean-François jumped in here, too! Just as Nico was lamenting how the British had brought 2 1/2-pound mosquitos to suck the blood of the French, Jean-François tried to get into the spirit of things by suggesting, “All the birds turned into polar bears!”
Nico: “No. Never happened.”
Jean-François: “I’m fired, aren’t I?”
Poor Jean-François! 😉
Anyhow, Le Vent show regulars will recognize this particular tall tale as leading into “Lettre à Durham”. And Nico went on to talk about how the British were all “oh these poor Canadians” (by which they actually meant, “these poor French”) “they have no culture!” And he dropped in a wicked little aside here about how “we really like to do this in England”, too. Muahaha. And a pic was necessary here, too, since sound guy François of course took the stage to take over the bass!
Réjean made a point of doing a shoutout for François’s bass contribution and that he does the sound. Which was good, because I know at least some of the audience was wondering who the heck this other guy was! Namely, a couple of the people sitting next to me. So I leaned over to clue them in that that was in fact the sound engineer. Because François is just awesome like that.
Next: another instrumental! This time “Entre ciel et terre”, my favorite of the instrumentals on Têtu. (Which also impressed the other Angela in our group, which I mention for important reference at the end of this post.)
Then Réjean introduced “Toujours amants”, by observing that “in Quebec, we have a lot of happy songs”–by which he meant, happy-sounding songs that are actually about entirely dire topics! This is a phenomenon I am familiar with from Great Big Sea, which after all has the incredibly catchy “Excursion Around the Bay”, all about the singer’s wife drowning and dying. And in this case, “Toujours amants” is all about lovers who have to part.
And it’s the exact reverse for “Le retour du fils soldat”, which I was genuinely surprised to see them break out given Olivier’s absence. Olo carries the low line of the harmony here, about which I wrote in last year’s show writeup. This time it was distinctly odd to NOT have that low harmony, and Jean-François sat this one out as well, so it was a three-parter rather than a four-parter. Nico himself remarked that it was odd for them to perform it this way, too.
After that, though, Réjean brightly added, “I love a happy ending!”
AND–my earlier desire to hear Réjean sing more was satisfied, because he took the lead on “Forillon”. This is the song on Têtu that features a guest vocalist, and I’d kind of wondered whether a) they’d do this one live and b) Réjean would in fact take lead on it. Yay!
With that, though, we got into the final stretch. And as soon as I heard the familiar opening bars of “Rosette”, I knew I was destined to spend the rest of the show on my feet. This time, though, there was a BONUS. “Rosette” led straight into “La turlutte du rang des Sloans”–better known to me as “the second half of Cré-mardi”! \0/ This is one of the very first things by Le Vent that I fell in love with, and I’ve been craving a chance to not only hear them do this live, but to be able to roar back the response lines!
That? That. WAS. AWESOME. 😀 😀
So was “Vive l’amour”! And for that it was absolutely required for me to fling back my hand and get Dara up and dancing with me, since this is after all Our Le Vent du Nord Song. <3 I am proud to say that we even managed to do a bit of credible swinging one another around on the big instrumental turnarounds between verses! It was beautiful. So was how Nico dedicated this song to the absent Olivier, because he needed the love.
They closed the main set with the instrumental “Mamzelle Kennedy”, and surprisingly exactly NO ONE, even before they’d really properly left the stage, the crowd was fired up enough that we started stomping and clamping for an encore. Somebody might have even called “You are NOT done! Get back out here!” And by somebody, I mean me.
Mischievous lads that they are, they teased us momentarily by holding the curtains open but not showing themselves. But then they did actually come right back out, at which point Réjean went into “La piastre des États” and I finally got some decent shots of everybody on the stage–since by then, I was pretty close. And I had to pause for a breather anyway because I knew what was coming after that song and I needed to pace myself. Here are the pics of the boys from during this song, though!
Last but most assuredly not least: “Au bord de la fontaine”, baby! Nico urged us all onto our feet and we did not deny him. That room was well and thoroughly rocked. And while I was still one of the few voices that actually managed to yell back “Pierre mon ami Pierre”, I damn well did. Go me!
Once the crowd finally began to clear, the other Angela asked me about that instrumental title. And I decided to kill two birds with one stone–and go ask if I could get a pic of the set list, to both answer her question AND have the list for this concert report. It happened that Simon Beaudry was the one I was able to approach about that, and Simon very kindly pulled the nearest set list over so I could see it. I also relayed to him that assorted persons (Dejah, Michelle, and the incomparable Susan) had asked me to send greetings, and he was very amiable and took a few moments to let me chat at him. Merci Simon!
I also took a moment to say hi to Jean-François and to say it had been a distinct pleasure to see him play live for the first time, since I had all of La Bottine’s albums and was familiar with him from those.
Then I pulled Kate and Angela over to introduce them to Réjean and Nico and made a point of mentioning that this was their first Le Vent du Nord show. Satisfying “we hope it won’t be your last!” replies were made! And Réjean also told me he’d seen me up there dancing!
All in all: even though we had no Olo, the evening was still a great success. And I made off with not only another Le Vent shirt, but also one from the Rogue’s own shirt bin. And I got a physical copy of the Têtu disc–since in their capacity as “Anna’s Favorite Band”, Le Vent boys are definitely at the top of the “I Must Have Physical Copies of Their Albums” list!
Next Le Vent show, though, I’ll have to try my cunning plan of snagging a pic with all of them for the top of my Facebook wall. Till then, everybody go buy Têtu, won’t you? I hear rumors that album’s pretty darned good!