By Team BeatRoute
July 13, 2015
QUEBEC CITY — Perhaps it’s foolish to admit but prior to seeing the Doobie Brothers perform as part of the Festival d’été de Québec in Quebec City, I couldn’t tell you a single song they’d written outside of “China Grove.” Halfway through their 90-minute set in front of close to 80,000 people at the massive, impressive Bell Stage (rumoured to be the largest outdoor stage in North America), and I had recognized every song. The power of classic rock radio via osmosis I suppose.
Some of the more snooty/younger/hipper members of the “rock music journalism” circle could probably pick this show apart and find a narrative about dinosaurs, nostalgia, etc., but I can’t imagine the point. Did I mention there were 80,000 people there? Regards of whether they were five years old or 75, everyone around me was singing along, genuinely happy and not wanting this band to stop playing. And that’s just too large of a number to dismiss as anything other than a real emotional connection to a moment.
It dawned on me during this performance that the era of the stadium show may be short-lived. Full of energy, with all their chops intact, the Doobie Brothers look like they have more years in them for sure. But who takes their place in 15 years? Who brings out people of all ages to fill public gatherings this large when the Stones, Foo Fighters, the U2’s of the world finally call it day? Whatever you want to say about it, the large stadium show has a place in music, one I hope never goes away.
As the Doobies ended and Boston prepared to take the stage, we ventured over a few blocks away to the more intimate Hydro Quebec outdoor stage, for another music legend: Charles Bradley.
What is there to say about Charles Bradley other than he is a master at what he does? With “his boys,” The Extraordinaires, ripping through some funky instrumentals to set the stage at the start of the show, the moment Bradley appeared, through to when he finally dropped his microphone stand and walked off for the night over an hour later, I don’t recall seeing an audience so entirely captivated and in the palm of someone’s hand. In fact, the only other person that comes to mind is Killer Mike, coincidentally enough another performer who follows the “take them church” mentality to perfection.
Barrelling through a mix of the best soulful ballads and upbeat jams found on his two essential full length albums, Bradley also threw in some lesser-known cuts, including a great cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” (search out that Daptone 7” if you haven’t heard it yet) to the delight of the thousands in attendance.
There’s really not much more to say about Charles Bradley other than I sincerely hope everyone reading this at some point gets to see, or at least hear, him perform. A true showman, a legit treasure, one we must not take for granted while he is here putting on this level of show for all to see.
Monday night at Festival d’été de Québec was something to behold. With 80,000 watching Boston at the same time as 8,000 watched Future Islands on the Loto-Quebec stage (hey, maybe in 10 years they’ll be on the big stage with my 75-year-old grandma putting her lighter in the air) and a few thousand more at the aforementioned Charles Bradley show, the upper town portion of Quebec City alone (without even factoring in the sold out shows occurring in lower-town) hosted a small city’s worth of people checking out three shows, three very different musical experiences. As we slugged back to our hotel, I feel like I passed by 50 per cent of those folks along the way. Every single one of them was smiling.AB, Alberta, Bell Stage, Charles Bradley, Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires, Doobie Brothers, Hydro Quebec Stage, Le Festival d'été de Québec, Quebec City