No opener, no warm up. When Chris De Burgh rolled into Montreal on the “A Better World” tour, he promised 3 hours of his songbook. You had to be prompt to Place des Arts because it was an early start to fit all of this in.
De Burgh hit the stage looking like a high school math teacher in his slacks, button shirt, jacket and shaggy grey hair, he was just missing a pair of glasses hanging on a chord around his neck. The British-Irishman quickly endeared himself to the crowd by speaking surprisingly good French.
He started the evening off with a couple of tracks from last year’s “A Better World,” including up tempo opener “Bethlehem.” The crowd connected well to the newer material.
Early on he treated the crowd to fan favorite “Spanish Train,” which he doesn’t play often anymore. From the opening drum roll, the crowd were on their feet. The cheering got so loud that after the opening line, the band had to take a twenty second pause. The lighting for this song was incredible, going from bathing in reds for the devil to shining white lights for his opponent. The crowd sang full voice to every line.
He took a few moments to explain how Montreal was the first place to truly embrace his breakthrough album “Spanish Train & Other Stories.” For that boost to his career he is forever grateful. He is as engaging a storyteller in his crowd banter as he is in songs.
A tender moment came when he dedicated Homeland to Syrian refugees. He explained that the song was written for them, for regular people who can’t return home.
A short intermission was followed by some mellower ballads. The mellow tunes led to a solo set without the band. At the end of this mini set, de Burgh got cheeky by playing “Pretty Woman” and getting the crowd to hum and sing with him.
The band came back and they went into the ubiquitous “Lady In Red.” De Burgh left the stage to roam amongst the crowd and dance with all the ladies in red dresses. By mid song, he was surrounded by a sea of red fabric.
He ended the second set with a set of four rocking songs that had the whole crowd off their seats and dancing. It started with his version of Toto’s “Africa” and continued with “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” and “High on Emotion”
For the encore, he managed to rile the crowd up even more with “Patricia the Stripper.” Bras and underwear were being thrown onstage, making the gentleman blush.
This was an incredible evening of music and storytelling. An endearing performer who is still on top of his game at age 68. It’s incredible to see that at this point an artist can hit with both old and new material. A truly gifted performer.
Review – Richard Brunette
Photos – Arianne Bergeron