Embracing our icons is a cherished tradition that fuels the hearts of Canadians and, probably even more intensely, the passionate souls of Quebecers, whether it is their sports heroes, acting legends, media personalities or musical troubadours and powerhouses.
Michel Pagliaro or, as he is often simply – and affectionately – known, Pag, fits the bill easily as national poet, social observer, romantic storyteller and focal point of raw musical/lyrical energy. Energy and enthusiasm aptly describe the crowd as well that braved the coldest night of the year to see their hero in fine acoustic form in a venue rapidly making its mark as a hotbed of live and digital entertainment in the heartland of Southwestern Quebec’s Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, The Orcasound Hotel.
The Orcasound Hotel offers a striking and desirable balance in terms of its presentation and continued efforts to provide entertainment options for residents of Hudson, Rigaud and various surrounding areas, and it’s beginning to attract attention in and around Montreal as well. The atmosphere for live shows is electric enough to deliver the punch one would be looking for, but still resonates with an intimate ambiance that seems perfectly crafted down the middle of the road to appeal to all tastes, ages, and walks of life. And the crowd on this Valentine’s weekend was in fine form to create the heat and raise the Orcaroof, so to speak, on a frigid Saturday night, as was the featured artist who requires absolutely no introduction, literary or otherwise, a chansonnier and rock star of prime pedigree, Mr. Pagliaro himself.
Pag gave the crowd what they wanted and what they came for, bookending the evening by beginning and concluding with his feverish anthem that excites a Québec crowd from Rigaud to Rimouski and all points in between, J’entends frapper. Extensively sandwiched between that signature song, a raucous crowd saw and heard gems and favourites from Michel’s extensive discography, all performed with Pagliaro’s distinctive – soulful at times, bluesy at others – vocal delivery. To top it off, it was a bit of a variation from the concerts one may have witnessed prior from the Juno-nominated 1975 Male Vocalist of the Year: it was done acoustic style, along with virtuoso sidekick Jeff Smallwood, who has played guitar with everyone from Luba to Céline, Roch Voisine and many others.
Pagliaro can also deliver what few artists can in Quebec: bona fide hits in both official languages. Besides the rip-roaring J’entends frapper, francophone favourites like l’Espion, Dangereux and the original French version of the Sinatra staple My Way, Comme d’Habitude, delighted the hot crowd. The setting was sensational, with appropriate mood lighting for an acoustic show, an elegant room, great sound proportionate to the size of the venue – and Michel Pagliaro, who never disappoints.
In English, unmistakable hits like Rainshowers, What the Hell I Got and the eclectic Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy, also a Top 40 hit in the United Kingdom in 1971, pumped the crowd to not only sing along, but in the case of the latter two, inspire people to show off their best moves on the Orcasound Hotel’s inviting dancefloor.
Outside, your breath may have turned to ice, but inside, the heated energy for a sonic celebration of Canadian iconic proportions lit the Valentine’s weekend afire. The Orcasound Hotel, which has featured the Terry Gillespie Band recently, promises more electric entertainment throughout 2016. One can safely say that if the future shows are anything like what we’ve already been fortunate enough to see, the best is assuredly yet to come. Check out orcasoundhotel.com for all the latest and greatest being offered.