Looking at the lineup for the 2018 edition of Andy Kim Christmas is like looking at a list of Polaris Prize nominees for the past 10 years. The local legend responsible for various chart-toppers in the 60s and 70s has been running a benefit show in support of the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada for 5 years now in Montreal (and 14 years in Toronto, which runs the same weekend), and the lineup gets better and better each year. This year is arguably the best, showcasing some of the best musical talent of the great white North over the course of the 2 1/2 hour show.
Andy Kim himself kicks off the show bang on 8pm with the classic How Did We Get This Way, and possibly another song; full disclosure, I was a little late and it was already going when I arrived at 8:10! He gives a little background to the show and its history, in tandem with a DJ from local radio station CJAD, before explaining how tonight’s opener, local singer Hanorah, wrote to him personally to ask how she could get involved with the cause. After she arrives on stage with a couple of musicians, she does just one song (which I’ll assume is called Long Road Home, as she says that line repeatedly), a fairly stomping acoustic number gets heads nodding around the room.
But then she’s gone! It’s a little strange to see such a short set, but that kinda sets the tone for the rest of the show; with so many on the bill, nobody gets to play more than 3 songs. It’s a double-edged sword; on the plus side, the show never gets boring and absolutely flies by, which is great for those not massively familiar with the artists on show, and looking for a quick introduction to them. On the downside, it’s a bit of a shame to have a set end right as you’re getting into it, which happens a few times tonight. Still, the positives by far outweigh the negatives.
After Hanorah leaves the stage, a Toronto-based comedian named Sean Cullen comes out to crack a few Montreal-related jokes for 15 minutes or so, bantering with Andy Kim who comes out again, before inviting the angelic Coeur De Pirate to the stage. Already! It’s not even 8:30pm yet! Things are already starting to fly by! She gets 3 songs, 2 of her own songs sung in French and then, in keeping with the time of year, a piano-based cover of Last Christmas by Wham! She explains “it’s a jolly song, but since I’m doing it, it’s a sad song!” She is delicate, she is magical, and reminds me that I really must see her full show sometime.
Brad Barr, half of local folk legends The Barr Brothers, is up next with a guy playing a spooky pedal steel guitar. His two-song set comprises a cover of Don’t Talk by The Beach Boys, and their ode to Montreal strongman The Great Antonio, and it follows Coeur De Pirate very nicely indeed. Delicate, fragile, and well suited to the respectfully quiet Corona theatre. The CJAD guy later likens it to 60s Simon & Garfunkel, which is pretty on-point.
Andy Kim is soon back out for a couple more songs, in the form of 1969 song Rainbow Ride and then the classic 1974 hit Rock Me Gently, which features a massive sax solo from E-Street band member Jake Clemons (who will perform himself a little later). It’s pretty triumphant, and the old folks around the room who were evidently loving this back in 1974 bust out their dance moves.
After a quick Q&A with the crowd, Andy introduces La Force, the musical project of newest Broken Social Scene member Ariel Engle. She actually enlists a couple of BSS members to help in the live setting, including husband/guitarist Andrew Whiteman, which whom she duets on the second of her two songs. It takes things to a more laid back and moodier level after the party that preceded it but is well received.
Jake Clemons then bounds out on stage, declaring “I PLAY ROCK AND ROLL FOR A LIVING!” He’s an incredible showman, strutting around with a guitar for his first song and then a saxophone on the second. In fact, he even roams to the front of the stage to gee up the crowd during the second song, chanting “all you need is a little” like a mantra, before closing out the song with a massive saxophone solo. The crowd absolutely roars at the end. Now that is how you win a crowd in 2 songs!
Possibly the biggest coup for Andy Kim at this years event is pop sensation Marie-Mai. She is playing 3 consecutive nights at the Bell Centre next February, which is an incredible feat by anyone’s standards. And now here she is, in the tiny Théatre Corona playing to a crowd of predominantly older folks. It’s a surreal contrast, but she puts on a Bell Centre-sized performance nonetheless. After the heavy bass and distorted beats of her first song, recent song Je Décolle maintains the vibe and sees her strutting the stage like a total pro. Her third and final song Tennessee Whisky is a country song and a total change of pace from the first two but is likely more in keeping with what an Andy Kim crowd would usually listen to. Expect a few of tonight’s crowd to be making their way across to the Bell Centre in February as result of tonight!
After the CJAD guy and Sean Cullen crack a few more jokes, Broken Social Scene wander out onto the stage, and frontman Kevin Drew explains “we didn’t know when to come out, we figured we’d just walk out and save you!” Again, just 2 songs: after a cover of Making It Work by Doug And The Slugs, they close with one of their own which I can’t remember the name of, but it’s loud, frantic, and another big surprise for Andy Kim’s fan club here!
Ron Sexsmith opens his set in the same way he has at previous Christmas Benefit shows, with a cover of Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea. The second song isn’t introduced in any more detail than “this is a toe-tapper,” but that sums it up pretty well.
Andy Kim then comes back out one last time, followed by Jake Clemons and a few Broken Social Scene members, and after thanking his backing band and all in attendance, closes the show with a huge rendition of Andy’s most famous song, Sugar, Sugar, which he co-wrote and sang on with The Archies way back in 1968. As he leaves the stage, Andy waves “see you next year!”
Yes, you will!
Review and photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :