Every year, Montreal International Jazz Festival takes the city by storm with an incredible selection of indoor performances, outdoor shows, and conferences. Once again, the line-up was truly amazing and we had the chance to experience some of it.

Morcheeba - Cindy Lopez

Morcheeba at MTELUS on July 2nd

Morcheeba has been around since the mid-1990s and never ceased to amaze the crowds. True to their nature, the English band hypnotized the entire audience as soon as they set foot on stage. From transcendental trip-hop momentums to groovy rock ‘n’ roll riffs, they embarked us on a journey down the rabbit hole. Skye Edwards bewitched everyone with her smooth, sensual voice. They elegantly mixed classics with more recent hits and oldies in what seemed to be a black & white scene from Sin City where the only color we could distinguish was emanating from Skye’s red dress. She reminded me of Greek goddess Andromaque, as described in Aliss, Patrick Senécal’s fantastic masterpiece, in which he describes a teenage girl’s descent into hell as she explores her own boundaries in an imaginary world populated by the most famous characters of a very twisted version of Alice in Wonderland.

I felt like I was over the moon, living a waked dream… They navigated through the realms of trip-hop, alternative rock, and downtempo electronic music so smoothly that they chilled many heads. Sometimes country, at times jazzy, they also paid tribute to Pink Floyd, David Bowie, finishing with Summertime (right before the last encore). She was almost completely a cappella for this one and I realized that I could listen to this mystical creature coo for hours and I would be ecstatic.

Their sound is so polished in the studio that I almost forgot their live dimension; when you gather Edwards’ breathy voice, the band’s simple but sophisticated arrangements, and mesmerizing visuals, you get a recipe for… success (and not disaster, bad pun intended).

Alt-J at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on July 3rd

The English trio took the audience to another dimension during their performance at Jazz Fest. The incredible acoustics of Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier really did the musicians’ talent and lead singer’s tormented voice honor. The indie rock band often described as “the next Radiohead” loves mixing all kind of influences into their tracks: string arrangements, woodwinds, mallet percussions, American gothic, and frequent a cappella male vocal harmonies. Every drumstick wave resonated in me with the strength of a hammer blow, reminding me of Woodkid’s remarkable concert just a few years before. Every vocal overlap made me feel as if I was in a church, listening to religious Celtic chants. It was such a beautiful, magical experience, full of poetry and intensity.

We can easily tell that they put a lot of work into their albums, they are more computer literate than their alt-rock peers, but they haven’t lost their soul along the way. The instruments often rise like a tornado in slow motion, only to break into satisfying acoustic strummings. It almost feels like a longed-for catharsis led by Joe Newman’s tortured gasp. The crowd, usually seated at this venue, was losing it before the encore, as if nobody wanted to leave the sanctuary they created for us. They might lack some of the innovative genius and the darkness that made Radiohead the most amazing alternative rock band of all times, but they did manage to trap us in a spatio-temporal vortex and I can say without a second thought that their live show was one of my best experiences at this astonishing festival that is the Montreal International Jazz Fest.

alt-J - April Yablonovitch

alt-J - Frédérique Ménard-Aubin

Photo credits: Cindy Lopez, April Yablonovitch, Frédérique Ménard-Aubin