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Vue aérienne de la foule au spectacle de Metallica

What began with one single indoor stage has now grown to include five major venues featuring international talent over the course of 11 days.

Festival d’Été de Québec celebrated 50 years this month as major acts descended on the city for a great summer bash. Streets were filled with patrons dining, heading between venues and enjoying a hearty blast of culture.

In the festival’s early days, the focus was on Francophone talent, but in 2002, Festival d’Été went global, and over the following years has brought in a great variety of bands from ZZ Top to Dinosaur Jr. and Ice Cube.

Festival d’Été/view from photo pit

This year’s headliners included Backstreet Boys, P!nk, Metallica, The Who, Gorillaz and Muse. The spirit remains the same: this is an inclusive festival with stages set up close to one another to create a party vibe throughout the city.

Over 140,000 passes are sold annually, and at a bargain too, starting at $90 for a basic pass that gets you into all venues for enjoying 11 days of music.

Transe Express - FEQ

Another great feature of Festival passes are that they’re transferable, so you can take a break and give a friend or family member the chance to experience the festival as well. Bands have definitely gotten word of this grand yearly festival and get a great experience with their audiences, no matter the size of the venue.

I was in town to cover the final four nights of the festival, my focus on the Bell Stage, the festival’s largest and located on the Plains of Abraham. This was my first Festival d’Été and I couldn’t help but be wowed by the immense size of the crowds attending each night.

Festival d’Été/The Who

The Who were in fine form on Wednesday evening to kick off their world tour at Festival d’Ete’s Bell Stage and cap off the Festival’s eighth night. Their two-hour set included all the finest hits over the decades, starting off with Can’t Explain, Seeker and Who Are You, winding down with Baba O’Riley and leaving the fans with Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Festival d’Été/The Who

This is yet another one of their “farewell tours” (I saw their first farewell tour in 1982 with The Clash opening) but I’m guessing there’ll be a couple more down the line, judging by the goods they’re still able to deliver.

Festival d’Été/The Who

The two remaining founding members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are joined these days by John Corey and Loren Gold on keyboards, Jon Button on bass, Zak Starkey on drums and Pete’s younger brother Simon Townshend on rhythm and acoustic guitars plus vocals.

Metallica (James Hetfield)
[James Hetfield of Metallica; Renaud Philippe photo)

Metallica are well loved by Quebec and it showed in spades during Friday night’s concert. While I’m only familiar with their bigger hits, the show was metal, metal and more metal, just what the crowd came for.

Festival d’Été/Metallica

Closing out their over two-hour set was Enter Sandman, perfect for sending the fans off into the night, perhaps with thoughts of gripping their pillows tight.

Gorillaz - FEQ
[Damon Albarn of The Gorillaz]

The new Gorillaz album Humanz is a big departure from their mid-90’s sound. Seven years have elapsed since their last album and owning up to their status as a virtual band, Humanz was announced via Instagram. This was their first time playing in Quebec and the crowd was ready to party.

Even though Brit Pop faves Blur (Damon Albarn’s OTHER band) toured as recently as 2015, Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and company continue to push the envelope and Humanz is no exception. Their latest style of music includes contributions from Noel Gallagher, Mavis Staples, De La Soul, D.R.A.M., Carly Simon, Grace Jones, De La Soul and others.

Gorillaz - FEQ

The sound? Not quite Feel Good, Inc — they’ve morphed into hip-hop.

Kicking things off with M1 A1, the band soon got into the business of Humanz, bringing Tomorrow Comes Today and El Mañana into the set, also from their earlier days.

One more tune off their latest (Sex Murder Party) and then it was onto a fully awesome version of DARE, getting the crowd amped up for a five-song encore that included fan favourite Clint Eastwood and leaving the stage with Demon Days.

Muse - FEQ

Muse took the honour of closing off the festival on Sunday night. This was my first time seeing the band and though I couldn’t help think of Radiohead while watching their set, they do have a great stage presence and did I hear the Cramps’ New Kind of Kick in there mid-set?

Festival d’Été/Muse

They started things off with new single Dig Down, followed by lots of fave hits during their 90 minutes on stage that included Stockholm Syndrome, Time is Running Out and Plug in Baby, closing off the night with encores Uprising and Knights of Cydonia.

Muse - FEQ

To the delight of fans who’d eagerly been awaiting the band’s arrival since the venue’s 6 pm opening, lead singer Matt Bellamy made his way out to the front of the barricades to shake some hands and sign a few autographs mid-show.

I’m already excited to see what Festival #51 has in store. Save the dates: July 5 to 15, 2018!

Metallica concert aerial image at top by Renaud Philippe.

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