You are on page 1of 1

THE GAZETTE

· montrealgazette.com · W E D N E S D AY, JULY 10, 2013

ARTS

B5

U2 through a private window
A one-man show on musical obsession
BRENDAN KELLY
SHOW BIZ CHEZ NOUS
“A lot of people came to the U2 show admitting they were not U2 fans, that they even kind of disliked U2 and that one of the reasons they showed up was because they were curious,” Cédilot said. “They thought, ‘OK, maybe this guy will finally explain to me why people like this band.’ People did come up to me and say , ‘OK, I get it now. I understand the U2 trip.’ ” For example, there’s a chunk about Rattle and Hum — a section Cédilot seriously rewrote this year at director Stéphanie Pelletier’s suggestion. At 14, it was a lifechanging album for him, and back then, he didn’t understand why so many people hated it. Now he gets why the old fans were grumbling about the album, which is often criticized for being self-important and bloated. And that’s the essence of the show: It’s about the fan’s relationship to the band. “The mandate of the company is, let’s tell stories of rock bands,” said Cédilot, 39. “But if you just tell the story , it’s boring. “You have to have an awesome angle to tell the story. So with Led Zeppelin, it was, let’s show these songs were covers and let’s tell the stories of the original artists. With Sid Vicious, it was, let’s have the Sex Pistols on stage telling the story of the Sex Pistols in their own very personal way . “U2 is closer to Zeppelin. It’s the one-man-show format. This is not the story of U2, the band. It’s the story of me, the fan. … Sometimes you discover the band in the middle of the career. In my case, it was Rattle and Hum. So at the same time that I was moving forward with the band, I was also moving backwards.” Cédilot actually wrote the original version of the show — in English — as his master’s thesis in theatre at UQÀM, focusing on the theatricality of U2’s performances. Next up? Pink Floyd. But for the moment, this is a film project, with Cédilot writing a series of short films inspired by Floyd’s classic concept albums. He has already written the first screenplay ,a monologue about last year’s student protests that riffs on lyrics from The Wall. Meanwhile, Kalman, an anglophone, is mulling the notion of writing a play about Québécois rock pioneer Robert Charlebois.

S

Strong is Michelle Wright’s first original-material release since Everything and More in 2006.

PHOTOS: ROB WAYMEN PHOTOGRAPHY

From strength to strength
MICHELLE WRIGHT is excited to bring a new album into the world
DAVE STUBBS

I

t’s been 25 years since the domestic release of Canadian country star Michelle Wright’s debut record, Do Right by Me. On Tuesday, the native of small-town Merlin, Ont., released Strong, her eighth studio album, her honeysmoke voice wrapped like a favourite sweater around a superlative collection of her own ballads and countryrockers. Surely, there’s been some strategic planning here, Strong arriving on the silver anniversary of the record that launched Wright’s career. But not so, considering that she was surprised in a chat to learn about the span of time separating the albums. “What an interesting coincidence,” Wright said Sunday from her Nashville home, 15 hours earlier having performed at the wildly popular Cavendish Beach Music Festival in Prince Edward Island. “We really didn’t plan this anniversary . I’d have liked to have the new record out six months ago.” And then Wright laughed, nearly drowning out the five vocal dogs happy for her homecoming, clamouring for her attention. “You almost want to be careful about talking numbers too much. ‘She’s over the hill,’ ” she joked, having embraced her 52nd birthday on Canada Day . If being over the hill means producing your greatest work, then this is an inconvenience Wright will have to bear. The lavishly decorated artist doesn’t hit a false note with this 11-track gem, in which she’s the lead writer on 10 of the songs. It was with an anxiety, a nervous excitement, that Wright spoke on Sunday, two days from the release of Strong. “I’m still crazy enough to be excited about it,” she said, this being her 11th album counting a 1999 greatest hits collection, a 2005 Christmas album and a 2011 acoustic package. Strong is Wright’s first original-material release since Everything and More in 2006. Different projects in her life took longer than expected, and the contents of her latest recording would be something she wanted, even needed, to plumb her personal depths. Two years in production, directed by her longtime friend and manager, Brian Fer riman, and largely brought to life by hot young Canadian country producer Jason Barry, Strong has been highly anticipated by Wright’s loyal fan base, and already the title track is getting rave reviews, in video rotation on CMT Canada. “I had some songs tucked away that I’d hoped to record one day, and I also sat down and purposefully wrote for this record,” Wright said. “It

Wright’s latest album arrives 25 years after her debut was released, but “we really didn’t plan this anniversary,” the Merlin, Ont., native says.
didn’t make sense to not record my own songs this time. It just was something that needed to happen. “There was a time in Nashville when artists often just recorded other people’s songs,” she added, including herself in that group. “It was almost hard, as a female artist/songwriter, to get your own songs recorded. But that has shifted dramatically . “And because this is an independent record (released on Ferriman’s SavanWright harbours no ill will for the lack of her own words recorded since she arrived on the scene in the late 1980s. She admits she stepped away from writing for a time and recalls the days she played small clubs, when country singers were told to cover the hits of others, not bring their own catalogue. But she’s quite delighted to have her own songs recorded now, “because it makes sense that an artist who’s had the kind of experiences I’ve had and at country fairs with a setting sun is to see an artist who truly is in her element. And yet Wright remains untouched by celebrity, “hon” and “dear” genuinely punctuating our talk. Two summers ago, we sat for 90 minutes in Ferriman’s living room just outside of Nashville, her Canadian roots clearly showing; one of the things she said she missed dearly about Canada was being able to get vinegar for her fast-food fries. “Still do,” she said Sunday . There are no immediate plans for a tour to support Strong, Wright saying she’s “almost rebuilding again” after the energy invested to bring forth the record. But, she says brightly, there still is unrecorded original material in her. “Hopefully , this will bring some new fans into my circle, and I know those people who have been supporting my career are going to enjoy this record,” she said. “Hopefully, it will reinforce their support of what I do and then we’ll get out there and tour again. “I just wanted to make sure I made the kind of record I wanted to make, and I feel really good about that. I’m proud of it and I’m certainly excited to get it out there. That I’ve recorded my songs here is a goal achieved.”

“There was a time in Nashville when artists often just recorded other people’s songs. … But that has shifted.”
MICHELLE WRIGHT

téfan Cédilot and Ben Kalman produce my kind of plays. They are major-league rock ’n’ roll fans, and that’s what their theatre is all about. Their local indie company, Théâtre Sans Fond, made a name for itself with the show Zeppelin Was a Cover Band, which was built on the thesis that many of the best Zep tunes are actually blatant rip-offs of blues classics. That show has had remarkable success — it debuted in French (Zeppelin c’t’un Cover Band) in 2006 at MainLine Theatre, played the Fringe fest the following year, was a hit in English at the Fringe in 2008 and made it to the Centaur’s Wildside Festival the year after that. “We found that you could tell the story of the blues through the Led Zeppelin songs that are playing on CHOM every day ,” Cédilot said. I discovered Cédilot and Kalman thanks to Vicious Circles, a truly inspired piece about the life and times of the late, not-so-great Sid Vicious written by Kalman and directed by Cédilot. It won the Next Stage Award as most promising production at the 2012 Montreal Fringe Festival, and part of the prize was a run at MainLine this spring. I saw the show in May and was blown away . I’m a bit of a Sex Pistols geek and was impressed with how Kalman got every single detail right in his depiction of what went down between the Sex Pistols bassist, his grungy girlfriend Nancy Spungen, his old pal Johnny Rotten and punk rock’s quintessential Svengali, Malcolm McLaren. The play nails Sid, capturing the lost kid who finally finds some meaning in his life thanks to punk and then sees it all slip away in a haze of drugs, violence and bitter infighting among the Pistols and their Machiavellian manager. Now, Théâtre Sans Fond presents All I Want Is U2, a one-man show starring and written by Cédilot, who appears to be one of the world’s biggest U2 fans. Part of Zoofest, it plays Thursday and Friday at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine in the language of Bono, and plays en français at the same theatre from Monday to July 17. In the language of Gainsbourg, it’s titled, appropriately enough, Le U2 Show. It originally premièred two years ago. All I Want Is U2 is not so much about the Irish supergroup as it is about a kid from Laval who discovered the Rattle and Hum album when he was 14 and has been obsessed with Bono, the Edge and the boys ever since. Cédilot says it’s a show you can like even if, like me, you’re not really into Dublin’s biggest hitmakers.

All I Want Is U2 is presented at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine, 264 Ste-Catherine St. E., Thursday and Friday at 10 p.m. in English, and Monday to July 17 at 10 p.m. in French under the title Le U2 Show. Call 514-509-5273 or visit zoofest.com.
bkelly@montrealgazette.com Twitter: brendanshowbiz

nah Music label) which I’m basically paying for myself, it’s sort of like, ‘Hey, I’m in charge here.’ ” Wright takes a long moment to reply when asked for her favourite track on Strong, then suggests it might be I’ll Cry Too, a sombre, piano-rich ballad that closes the disc. “What I love about it is it’s real emotion,” she said of the song, a girlfriend-to-girlfriend conversation that’s not about bucking up a brokenhearted friend, but an unabashed mourning, together, of her lost relationship. “When you’re in the middle of that kind of thing, you just want to be allowed to feel those sad feelings, not have somebody telling you that everything’s going to be all right. It’s a permission to feel sad.”

should be able to.” Wright’s career has earned her more than 40 industry awards, more than two dozen Top 10 hits in Canada — seven of them reaching No. 1 — and five gold and two multi-platinum albums. Along the way, Wright recorded the colossal country hits He Would Be Sixteen, Take It Like a Man, Safe in the Arms of Love and I Surrender — songs she plays at every show like she’s performing them for the first time. Inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011, last year she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contributions to Canada’s cultural fabric. Indeed, seeing Wright perform in intimate venues

Michelle Wright’s Strong is available now. Visit michellewright.com or facebook. com/michellewrightmusic.
dstubbs@ montrealgazette.com Twitter: Dave_Stubbs

“This is not the story of U2, the band,” says the playwright and star of All I Want Is U2, Stéfan Cédilot. “It’s the story of me, the fan.”

JUSTIN TANG/THE GAZETTE