Tuesday night I had the privilege to assist one of Chilly Gonzales‘ last of three concerts here in Montreal at Outremont Theatre. First off, let me ask you: Have you ever been there?! Because it’s really, and I mean really beautiful, with the giant red drapes and golden arches each sides of the stage. The look was very fitting for this kind of evening. The concert was sold out, and the room was filled with a vast array of fans: From old, Jewish men with walking sticks to teenagers with multicoloured hair.
There weren’t any band opening for Chilly Gonzales and the Kaiser Quartett, unless you count the piano man getting on stage alone and in total silence to play four songs out of his excellent album Solo Piano II. Wearing his trademark bathrobe and a magnificent grin, Gonzales,born Jason Charles Beck, amazed me right from the start.
The sound wasn’t perfect, had I been alone I would have raised the volume to really drown myself in the music. But, how can I explain this…The piano sounded so real! (yes, I get the irony here) You could hear every finger dancing on the notes, the sound of his slippers hitting the pedals, the exact moment he releases a key. That’s something you don’t get with a keyboard and in the age of amps and what not, barely get out of a show nowadays.
His silence got me a little worried because I always wanted to see him live to get closer to his music. For the fifth song, the Kaiser Quartett ( 3 violists and a cellist from Hamburg) joined Gonzales on stage, and the lessons on music and life finally began. Born and raised in Montreal, he had no problem mixing French and English in a very charming way. After his bandmates joined and for the remainder of the show, he stopped between songs to teach us about what ties The Beatles to Beethoven, the riots caused by Stravinsky and how to do a rapping Waltz.
Hearing Gonzales with the Quartet play his latest album Chambers is like being transported in a Hayao Miyazaki movie. The images they collectively conjured in my head were endless, changing at an incredible pace. Later in the concert, a drummer joined the stage, and the six of them formed two incredible teams. The piano facing the others, they would sometimes unite, and sometimes fight. It was an incredible thing to witness and even if I really like his solo work, Gonzales is even more impressive with musicians.
The evening had a couple of surprises in store for us all. Milk and Bones made a appearance, singing the beautiful Why don’t we disappear (out of the first album), and Socalled came on stage during the second encore to do a magic trick while the band played a beautiful rendition of Freudian Slippers.
Was it a perfect night? No. Why? Because I’m annoyed this incredible night wasn’t only for me, in my living room. That’s the only thing that would have made the night even better. Next time, Chilly Gonzales comes to town, give yourself a treat and see him live. You won’t regret it.
Feature image: www.camuz.ca