About the third song this past Friday night it hit me. Living in Montreal, at the end of the 1960s and during the early 1970s I had the opportunity to experience an explosion of creative musical culture that may have been unprecedented. Certainly it was for Canada
Last Friday Michel Pagliaro came to town. I think it had been 40 years since I last saw him perform. (At least that’s what I told him after the show. My memory being what it is, I now wonder if I had seen him in concert before. It was so long ago, and I have seen so many shows…)
His name may not be immediately familiar to you if you didn’t grow up in Quebec. I don’t think my wife knew who he was when I suggested we take in the show. She recognized some of the songs though. Pag is one of those few Canadian performers who straddled the English/French divide. He recorded albums and had hits in both languages. As an Anglophone I preferred the English material but also listened to the French songs. It just seemed natural. My French wasn’t that good, but I could usually puzzle out what the songs were about.
Michel Pagliaro wasn’t the only performer of that era who crossed Montreal’s cultural and linguistic divide, just the one best known in the rest of Canada.
He is older now, but the music still holds the same appeal it did 40 years ago. Blues-based rock and pop, with a tight backup band.
With spring here his Ottawa gig was an outdoor one, tied to the Ottawa Race Weekend. It was a perfect night for rock and roll – though no-one seemed to have told the almost 50,000 runners taking part that there was a Friday night concert: there were fewer than 200 people out to see a great show. Whoever was in charge of publicity didn’t do their job very well. Michel Pagliaro showed up and did his superbly.