By Matt Zimbel
Montreal: Live from the lockdown red zone, it’s the 42nd Adisq awards!
Impossible! Pas du public.
It was anything but a normal Prix Adisq, but it was a remarkably well-crafted show which opened with Cowboys fringants playing their hit L’Amérique pleure (America is Crying), centre field in an empty Percival-Molson Stadium. In a departure from the Adisq tradition of opening the show with a highly arranged medley of hit songs from the award eligibility period, this year’s opening featured artists performing in iconic Montreal exterior locations, skyscraper rooftops and riverside at the foot of the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
It was hosted by comedian/actor/writer Louis José Houde for his 15th year in a row. Houde, who started his career at Musique Plus, knows the music community and they know him, which makes for a night that often feels like a kitchen party with mega-production values.
“I agreed to host on March 12”, said Houde in his opening monologue, “but I didn’t know the show would be a PowerPoint at the Sheraton!” It was anything but. The 210-minute gala was aired live from Radio Canada and featured performances that leave no doubt that before artists in Quebec were locked down they were in a period of spirited creativity and innovation.
In a show that has become known for excessive hugging, on Sunday night, performers and nominees alike remained socially distanced. The “audience”, was composed of nominees only, sitting cabaret style with those in their ‘bubble’, six feet apart from each other. When a winner was proclaimed, their award was delivered to the table by a “waiter’ in a mask and face shield as if the Felix Trophy was a deserving cocktail drink.
Cowboys fringants had a lot of table service on Sunday night, winning a total of five Felix awards including song of the year (L’Amérique pleure), group of the year and, at a previous ceremony earlier in the week, best-selling album, video and rock album of the year for Les Antipodes.
A nice way to celebrate their 10th release after 25 years of playing together.
Other multiple winners included Louis-Jean Cormier (Karkwa) who took home two Felixes’, for his album Quand la nuit tombe in the category of adult contemporary and composer of the year with co-composers Daniel Beaumont, Alan Côté and David Goudreault.
Patrick Watson took home a duet of Felixes' for Anglophone Album and Anglophone Show of the Year. Elisapie won two awards, one for Indigenous recording and the other for show. Her acceptance speech in French and Inuktitut effectively drew attention to recent racist events against the Indigenous community in Quebec.
Marie Pierre Arthur returns home with matching Felixes' for Critics Choice and Alternative Album of the Year. In a stunning close to the show, pianist Alexandra Stréliski took home her second prize of the week, this one for Female Artist of the Year, an exceptionally rare win for an instrumental artist.
The joy of the nominees in the room was palpable. They seemed gleeful to be doing anything that was even remotely approaching normal.
Accepting the award for Show of the Year, Quebec superstar/elder and sage Robert Charlebois told viewers; “wear your mask. It’s not a political statement, it’s an expression of love.”
In closing, host Louis Jose Houde noted that during the production so much Purell had been consumed that cast and crew were now sterilized, but that the after-party was still cancelled.
The 42nd Adisq Gala was a stunning example of the place where creativity and re-invention meet. Bravo.
Matt Zimbel@ firstname.lastname@example.org