The soundtrack of our youth or even of yesteryear in general, is nothing to be sneezed at or underestimated. Powerful feelings of nostalgia can be awakened by simply a bass line, a riff, or even a single note. And Quebec musical mainstay for the last three decades plus – Sylvain Cossette – knows superbly how to tap into all of them and then some. And he’s been doing so expertly for almost a year now with his Tournée 80s whirlwind homage to an unabashedly unforgettable decade. This particular performance was a special encore at Lasalle’s Théâtre Desjardins on Thursday, April 4th, having been there last fall as well.
Sylvain Cossette spent the 1980s on the Quebec bar and live music scene, touring with his band Paradox for much of it. They had strong airplay and regular music video rotation on both MuchMusic and MusiquePlus in that crystallized era where the video often made the song and the artist(s) rather than the inverse. The combined emphasis on visual and auditory can’t be dismissed in that era, for better or worse, but the tunes remain simply iconic for many. And Cossette and his tone tight band deliver them endlessly in a sonic smorgasbord that throttled, thrilled and brought back memories of everywhere special in this city to hear it from the vaunted Montreal Forum to the much-missed Spectrum and even partying the night away at 1980s dancing mainstay Club l’Esprit. There are so many music genres and subdivisions (no pun intended for Rush fanatics) one could musically touch upon from the decade, and Sylvain and his boys manage to go everywhere, emblazoning his reputation as a voraciously versatile and elite level musician and vocalist.
Cossette & Co. brilliantly conceptualize the moments and the people that made it all so special in the organization of this blast of bombast and literal marching hit parade. Some of the highlights that cannot help but stand out were his montage to musical Montrealers who struck out in the 1980s to make the music world their oyster. Aptly describing the sonic changes and evolution going on at the time in post-punk and new wave, and how the Quebec tradition of folk-oriented compositions was turned on its proverbial ear with the addition of synthesizers and drum machines, the Cossette crew rips through the plethora of artists that broke through on the international stage, from Corey Hart to Men Without Hats, etc., and those who rocked the Quebec scene in both official languages, such as his band Paradox. For their big hit “Waterline,” an expert juxtaposition was presented for visual effect with the 2019 Sylvain singing in front of the adoring throng of enthusiastic audience members while the television screens in the back, essentially 1980s MTV-look screens spread throughout the horizontal width of the stage, played the video of the smashing success where you see 1989 Sylvain, looking not unlike a card-carrying member of Warrant or Bon Jovi at the time, soulfully making the people swoon.
Besides the tip of the hat to the Quebec scene, the band gives special love to groups like Queen, INXS and, in the encore, U2, with searing medleys of those groups’ greatest successes of the era. But the fun never really stops, as everyone from Tears for Fears, David Bowie, Simple Minds, Toto, Billy Idol, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Rick Astley, and the late, great Prince get the flawless cover treatment. Not one without a keen sense of humour, Cossette even does a hilarious tongue-in-cheek tribute bit to Milli Vanilli that had the crowd in an uproar. Cossette boasts some sensational musicians in his band, and it was hard to take one’s eyes off guitarist Matt Laurent, not only for his virtuoso-level playing, but his charisma and overall flair was also something to behold.
Fantastic booming and pulsating sound, along with a dazzling light show, complemented the atmosphere, and it showed with the thunderous response from the demographically diverse crowd. Those who saw Elvis in his prime and those who were born well into the 1990s rounded out the generational make-up of the concertgoers, as well as of course those who lived the 1980s in the thick – one solved Rubik’s Cube at a time. Before this tour calls it a day in the fall, don’t miss a chance to see this top flight, but affordable trip down acid-washed memory lane. Sylvain was there through it all in that decade, and he doesn’t seem to mind if you book first class passage on the encore.
Check out where they’ll be next at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SylvainCossette/events/ .