Monday, August 10, 2009
It's always daunting writing a review of a multi-day concert festival, so rather than work up a headache over it let's just stick to the highlights. Compared to past Toronto Virgin Festivals which took place over at Olympic Island, Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival which took place at Parc Jean-Drapeau was such an easier experience. The Metro runs from the mainland right over to Parc Jean-Drapeau on the island. The 2-day festival was operated over four stages with two side stages which were down a path at the farther edge of the island while the two main stages were side by side. The two main stages alternated performances so that as one stage concluded the other stage would begin the next set almost immediately or with minimal wait time.
During the first day of the festival, a friend and I caught La Roux, K'Naan, Elbow, Jason Mraz, The Roots, and Coldplay. La Roux's electro-dance-pop was enjoyable although I wasn't really in the mood for it that sunny afternoon. Toronto's K'naan was far more enjoyable than I expected, fusing hip-hop, r'n'b, pop and his Somalian upbringing into songs that were danceable and singable. I particularly liked his song "Wavin' Flags" which featured K'naan prompting the crowd to sing along to the chorus. UK's Elbow turned out a gratifying festival set of their emotive pop-rock. I'm not a fan of Jason Mraz - I guess he does a capable job of his blue-eyed soul and r'n'b although I found him particularly out of place amidst the mostly alt-rock acts of the weekend. The Roots were by far one of the best sets of the weekend playing many of their most well known songs, and throwing in some great covers like Guns n' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" and Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up". Say what you will, but Coldplay know how to headline. Playing many of their most well-known songs, they also kept things interesting by playing some more intimate performances at different stages setup in the crowd. They even did a touching acoustic tribute to Michael Jackson with a fantastic cover of "Billie Jean". Oh, the yellow balloons during "Yellow" and the confetti bombs later on were magnificent. Off to the right of the stage in the distance, an unrelated fireworks display added a further visual element to the already memorable set.
Day Two of the festival my companion and I took in The Ting Tings, Vampire Weekend, Rufus Wainwright, The Decemberists, Arctic Monkeys, Tiga(well I caught him brifly myself), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The early part of the day experienced some torrential downpours even during part of The Ting Tings' set. I'm not too much a fan of them at least compared to the friend I was with but they put on a fun festival set I guess. The sky would clear up basically for the rest of the day after that thankfully. Vampire Weekend's set was neither here nor there for me - I don't hate 'em, but I don't love 'em either - but seeing them play the same stage that Coldplay played the night before, I realized that Vampire Weeked are no where near capable of playing a stage of that size. They have some fun songs, but on a such a big stage, they're boring to watch. Another of the greatest sets of the weekend belonged to hometown boy Rufus Wainwright playing a solo set of his torchy, cabaret-like pop songs. His mom Kate McGarrigle joined on piano for Rufus rousing rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". Rufus also performed a fantastic cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Confined to a festival-length set(ie. about an hour), The Decemberists', dressed to the nines, took the stage to concentrate on their most recent album "The Hazards of Love" - proggish, conceptual, and dramatic. It's quite different from the sea-shanty folk-pop of their older material, but the new material's also of the type that really fit well on a big stage. I'd stuck around for the first part of Arctic Monkey's set, enough to see they've grown shaggy heads of hair and to experience their scrappy pop-rock, before venturing on my own to the MEG stage to catch a bit of Montreal DJ Tiga who was stirring up a dance storm as the day turned to night. I headed back to the Arctic Monkey's just in time to hear off in the distance as they segued into their hit "You Look Good On The Dancefloor". Unfortunately, my solo venture to Tiga's set made it difficult for me to hook back up with my friend for Yeah Yeah Yeahs set so with a quick text to meet afterwards, I positioned myself as close to the front of the stage as I could possibly get and settled in for the YYY's. One could argue, without much debate, that Karen O is Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I can't possibly imagine the band without her. A commanding front-person both vocally and visually, she sung with energy and emotion and presented herself in a dizzying array of colorful attire and costume. Karen sent out a special message to Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch and wishing him well during his current health issues. I was initially disappointed that Beastie Boys had to cancel their headlining slot but Yeah Yeahs more than stepped up to the plate. And wasn't that giant eyeball as part of Yeah Yeah Yeahs stage set up just friggin' fantastic?
Photos: Osheaga Music and Arts Festival @ Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal (August 1, 2009)
Photos: Osheaga Music and Arts Festival @ Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal (August 2, 2009)