Unless you grew up in Montreal the 60s and 70s, chances are you’ve never heard of Andy Kim. So, when I told my 16-year-old son that we were going to see his show, he did not look impressed. I found some tracks on Spotify and played him “Rock Me Gently”.
“Is that Neil Diamond?” He asked.
“No, but he’s kind of like Neil Diamond’s cooler, Canadian cousin” I explained.
He still didn’t seem very convinced so I kind of had to drag his sulky ass to Place des Arts on December 13th for the 6th annual Andy Kim Christmas concert. I wasn’t sure who all the other guests were going to be but I had a really good feeling about it… and I was right.
The evening was packed full of wonderful surprises and I can honestly say that I’ve never been to a show where the artists expressed so much genuine love for each other and the audience.
Hosted by CJAD’s quick-witted Aaron Rand, who poked fun of Andy’s Full head of thick, black hair calling it a Christmas miracle. To which Andy replied that it was Lebanese olive oil. Aaron then mentioned that Andy had just been honoured on Montreal’s walk of fame. Andy’s humble response;
“I have no known skills is what it is, this is all I know how to do”
set the tone for a very relaxed and unpretentious evening where budding and veteran musicians joined forces for a very good cause.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 for hospitalized children and their families. I met president Sheldon Davis during the intermission when he noticed my long-haired kid, wearing an AC/DC T-shirt was attending the show. Since it was an older crowd, he was quite surprised to see him there and asked us how we heard about the concert. Opening with “So Good Together”, Andy sounded just as good as he did when it was first released in 1969.
When I said the evening was full of surprises I’m not kidding. He called a young woman named Griffin to the stage and made us all sing happy birthday to her, which we did. In case that wasn’t enough, a young man then appeared onto the stage and got down on one knee and proposed to her. The entire audience cheered and it truly was a magical moment.
Next up was BAYLA, a Montreal indie artist who is the Grand Prize winner in Canada’s Walk of Fame 7th annual RBC Emerging Musicians program. She really brought up the energy with her powerful voice.
Andy Kim returned to the stage with a sweet version of “Baby I Love You” featuring his good friend Jake Clemens on saxophone. It was clear that the two had great affection for each other as Andy gave Jake a lot of praise for not just his musical skills but his kind heart.
Frequently stating that he has a great eye for talent, he then introduced another Canadian artist. I had never heard of singer/songwriter Gabrielle Shonk but became an instant fan. It’s no wonder she was nominated for Adult Alternative Album of the Year at the Juno Awards of 2019 for her self-titled debut album.
Next up was Tom Cochrane who blew us away with fantastic acoustic versions of “Big League” and “White Hot” accompanied by Billy Bell on guitar.
After Andy came back on and explained how Christmas time makes him feel a little melancholic, Ron Sexsmith warmed our hearts with a sweet version of “Driving Home For Xmas”. (He also treated us to a brand new song “You Don’t Want To Hear It Now” ” from his new album that will be released next year.)
And then out of the blue, Men Without Hats appeared and to everyone’s surprise, performed a super energetic “Safety Dance” which got the entire audience on their feet.
Andy decided that there would be a small intermission just because he said so and that was cool because it was one of those nights when anything goes. When he came back he did a lovely version of “Rock Me Gently” which brought me back to my childhood. My older sister had this song on one of her K-tel records and it was one of my favourites at the time. Jake Clemons accompanied him on saxophone and it really worked.
Jake took over the stage and did few tracks from his brilliant new album “Eyes On The Horizon” which was released this year. Including a hard-rocking rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy”, switching over from sax to guitar. It was “Song For Hope” that really sealed the deal. If you ever get a chance to see Jake Clemons perform live do not miss it! He’s not just a multi-instrumentalist with a really strong voice but a passionate and caring performer who really makes you believe in the power of hope.
Men Without Hats then reappeared and did “Pop Goes The World” shifting the mood. As did Gabrielle Shonk who sang her bluesy “Habit”.
I must admit the biggest surprise of the evening was when Commander Chris Hatfield casually walked onto the stage and sang a Christmas song that he actually wrote. It was at that moment my son turned and looked at me in utter disbelief.
He actually thanked me and smiled so wide that I’m sure the reflection of his braces could be seen in outer space.
Tom Cochrane came back to sing “Boy Inside The Man” and of course “Life Is A Highway”.
Ron Sexmith joined Andy for a few more hits. (“How’d We Ever Get This Way” and “Amour”)
Everyone in the crowd was singing along and then all of the other performers joined the stage to finish it off with a little tune that was written 50 years ago. It is impossible to sing “Sugar Sugar” without smiling or feeling happy.
They say you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends. So, based on the talented and generous people that volunteered their time and service, it’s easy to see what makes Andy Kim so special. He is not simply a singer-songwriter but a humble philanthropist who continues to inspire new generations with his message of love and hope.
Review – Annette Aghazarian
Photos – Kieron Yates