Article by Adam Shaw.
I normally don’t review venues, only performances. But, this was one of those places. Walking in, Le Petit Olympia (1282 Rue Amherst, downtown Montreal) certainly had its rustic charm with chandeliers and mood lighting. But then I got sticky shoes — even before the first song. And the security was extremely overzealous. They pulled a girl for dancing! Granted she was swaying a little wildly and was a little all over the place. But, she wasn’t bumping into anyone. Usually, it’s climbing on stage that’s a no-no. Fighting is a no-no. Lighting a blunt — no-no. Dancing – -a yes-yes-yes. It was the beginning of a comedy act — à la securite. I came to see music, but I got comedy as a bonus.
Security’s second gaffe was to pull a girl off of a guy’s shoulders. What the f*&#?! Usually, it’s gorgeous girls that can get away with anything at concerts, even the aforementioned no-nos. Not at this concert. It was definitely not something you see at a typical venue.
The worst part of the whole experience was the sound system. It seemed like it hadn’t been upgraded since the ‘80s. Usually, the sound system is finely tuned so you can discern all of the musical instruments and distinctly hear the singer’s voice. Through this one, everything seemed to be a jumble — all you could hear was the bass and that’s it.
On to the performance. I was looking forward to seeing Young Paris. I spent the previous evening watching his psychedelic, tribal music videos on Youtube, preparing myself for the event. I couldn’t get enough. If you are into Afropunk and Urban music in general, this hot new act is the freshest since Kanye West. His beats blend traditional African tribal drums with electronic, which he raps over. But, not in the mainstream gangsta style. Like the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) before him, his tracks don’t include references to violence, drugs or degrading insults to women. Instead, his lyrics try breaking traditional media stereotypes about Africans:
“Make us look so greedy
Tell you take your dollar out and then give it to the needy
How are we the needy?
We got mangos on the tree tree”
And his videos have a stylized version of traditional African dance that will make you want to get on a dance floor.
Young Paris certainly came out to a roar from the audience. And he had on his signature colourful wardrobe. The sound system didn’t do him justice, however. I couldn’t tell if he was singing a version of KAKE or Haus. But, his groove certainly had everyone going. The crowd was beginning to get into a frenzy, then it suddenly stopped. One song and he was gone. I thought that Young Paris was one of the headliners.
Originally, a Congolese American, Young Paris has adopted Montreal as his home. If he is going to get really big, it’s going to start right here. His facebook page lists his upcoming concert dates. His videos on youtube can be found here
Next to Akon, Young Paris was the best act to be watched that night. Instead of him continuing and bringing out tribal dancers, they brought out a boy band instead. Although they were decently synchronized and had the girls cheering, they weren’t anything compared to an act like Young Paris. What a shame.
Next up after the boy band was Peter Jackson. He did a decent job of playing covers and pumping up the crowd for Akon, alongside the DJ. At this point, things were getting a little mundane for me, poor sound system and all. I walked around the venue trying to see if I could get better camera and listening angles, but there were not to be had. Returning to my original spot, I started to get sleepy eyes.
All that changed when Akon came out. It’s the effect that superstardom, charisma and a melodic voice can have on a place. His stage presence and voice seemed to magically transform the speakers into something more modern. He got all the girls swaying and all the guys moving. And recognizing that security had been uptight, Akon took two dives into the audience to assure all of the patrons that a musical venue is all about grooving and having fun.
Constantly glad-handing everyone in the front row, he sang many of his perennial favourites including Smack That, Locked Up and I Want to Love You. Missing were his new beats from his upcoming Stadium album which promises to be epic by spanning four CDs. Each CD is recorded in a different genre : World, House, Urban and Island. And if you head over to his website HERE, you can listen to a single from each one.
I was a little disappointed that Akon didn’t play any of these singles – I particularly enjoyed listening to “Whole Lot” on his Urban album the night before. Akon made up for this by giving me and all of the concert goers a surprise prize. And I would like to share that prize with you. If you download his free iPhone or Android App (can be found on Akon.com), he says you can download all four albums for free when they are released. What’s more is that he promises that you will never have to pay for any of his future music if you have the app. All of this is a big thank you to all the die-hard fans that have supported him over the years. Much love to you Akon. The app won’t be around forever, however, and will be taken down after the promotional tour is over. You can sign up to get the app now at Akon.com. Enjoy.