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Pop Montreal: What I Like About Jew

Posted by John / October 4, 2005

If last night's epic Pop Montreal finale at Theatre Nationale was flawed, it was only for its greatness. Giving music fans the all-star, all-Jewish lineup of Irving Fields, Gonzales and SoCalled on the same bill together created the conditions for a possible overdose. Like, what do you do when the opening act -- the 90-year-old Fields -- plays two encores? You let him, obviously, because he's a legend. And I guess you stay up really late again, and worry about catching up on sleep/work/life on some future day.

When I arrived at the theatre (which, incidentally, is a gorgeous, ornate, classic theatre oozing with character and hidden in the Gay Village), I had no idea who Irving Fields was. By the end I felt we were friends. He's a virtuoso pianist, songwriter, arranger, composer, with something like 90 records, a dozen number ones, and millions of copies sold. He really is 90, but he pounded and tickled that grand piano for an hour like a man at his peak. Which, in a way, he was. He'd finish some Gershwin tune, or some song he penned for Dinah Shore, with every little intricacy in place, every note perfect, and not just the note but the feeling behind the note, and then he'd turn a bit on the bench and kind of grin at the applause for a second, and then deliver one of many hilariously corny jokes. His father once arranged for him to play in front of Vladimir Horowitz, he deadpanned, and afterwards asked the musical great what he thought of his son's execution. "I'm all for it," Horowitz was said to reply.

Gonzales is kind of a huge ham, but backs it up with some pretty stellar skills on the ivories. Isn't that what they call piano keys? The piano he was playing, he claimed, was from the house he grew up in (he's originally from Montreal); they dropped by that day and picked it up. It could be true -- there were a few bad keys near the top. He ran through a bunch of stuff: fascinating major/minor conversions, crowd-pleasing melody references to his cohort Feist, funny anecdotes, show-offery. I was leaning slightly towards finding him pretentious, but for his encore he offered to provide a recap of his performance for anyone who had arrived late, and then proceeded to pretty much mock all of his little idiosyncracies and gimmicks. Now, I love the guy.

Begin Philip Roth voice: I've always known that Josh Dolgin is a genius, and I left yesterday night with that thought once again in my head. It's true, everything people say. Except the bad things. What a brain. What a weird, messed up, Jewish brain. The suit - a white suit that looked like it came straight out of Colonel Sanders' closet. The hair - his bouncing afro verging upon that of Hershel Krustovsky. Dolgin was a man possessed. He laid down the beats, gestured at various musicians like a mad conductor, sang in Yiddish (apologies from this goy if it was Hebrew), rapped, bashed the piano, squeezed the accordion - and it was great music. Katie Moore's voice almost made me cry it was so beautiful. Gonzales and Fields both joined in at times. Those two. Oh.

So anyway, now it's over. Sad, yes, but necessary.

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