Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.20.10
Stanstead, Quebec


Good evening, Eastern Townships! You're a wonderful audience!

In a concert by Canadian crooners Justin Bieber and Michael Bublé, who would be the opening act and who would headline? Would it be Bieber-Bublé or Bublé-Bieber? All I know is that I would see nieber.

Sorry. I just like saying "Bublé" and "Bieber." (What if Lady Gaga and the Goo Goo Dolls were also on the bill? Then it might be Bieber-Bublé-Goo Goo-Gaga.)

The only reason I bring it up at all is because my wife and I have been seeing a lot of shows lately. In the past month, we've seen Neko Case, Suzanne Vega, and just this past weekend, the Bishop's University Singers and Metric. Oh, and somewhere in there Deb and some friends saw Bon Jovi in Montreal. They had a terrible view of the stage but a good view of Jon Bon Jovi's tushie, which apparently made it all just fine.

Our children are somewhat appalled that Deb and I are going to shows, let alone shows with the rock and the roll and the noise and the tight pants. I don't think it's so much they disapprove of us going. It's that they disapprove of us going without them.

Too bad. Deb and I are finally comfortable leaving the kids; the youngest is old enough that we don't have to worry about her, and the others are old enough that we can tell them, "We're going out. Have fun babysitting!"

But enough opening act. How were the shows?

Let's start with the last one: terrific Canadian alternative band Metric at the Granada last Sunday. This was only my third time in the Granada, the second being the Suzanne Vega show a couple of weeks earlier.

The first time was maybe seventeen years ago, a press conference involving Jean Charest presenting some award, which I've thrust out of my mind, and rightfully so. I didn't recall what a superb and elegant theatre this old movie house is. It's so luxurious you want to nibble on the plaster.

The Metric show was outstanding, improved by the fact that it turns out I wasn't the oldest person in the room. We were, however, the furthest away from the stage. Don't want to get crushed by the young hipsters, you know. And my ears, oh my, the rock and the roll and the noise! And the lights, do they have to be so bright?

Metric was great. I enjoyed the show tremendously, despite the loud girl beside me with the thrashing head and the slight gas problem.

The thing with a show like this, though, is that it's all about spectacle. "Okay," the concert-goer says, "impress me. And not just with tushie. Give me something big and bright and mind-blowing. I dare you."

Perhaps I'd be less judgmental if the evening before we hadn't been to the Bishop's University Singers and Champlain College Choir concert at Centennial Theatre. My first time seeing them. Like the Granada, I regret not having gone sooner.

No spectacle here. A bit of choreography maybe, some lighting. But otherwise just voices, dozens of voices, young and old, locals and students singing gospel and not-quite-gospel, all under the hyperkinetic direction of conductor/arranger Jamie Crooks. Aretha, Springsteen, Curtis Mayfield, the redeemed Michael Jackson, Dylan, Elvis. Hallelujah!

What energy! What sound! What joy in making and sharing music! Look at all the exclamation marks I'm using! The soloists belted it out with soul, both operatic and down-and-dirty. We were in "American Idol" country, but without the smarm or cynicism. Or criticism. Such an enthusiastic audience, comprised of a lot of peers and acquaintances, no doubt, but who cares! It was electric.

Did someone say Curtis Mayfield? Did I mention that my daughter Emily opened the second act with "People Get Ready"? My eldest, who had never sung in public a year ago, growling into a microphone, sounding three sizes bigger than her tiny self? Was it over in a flash for her like it was for me? Did it leave her going "Wow!" like me?

So I'm biased, so what? I left feeling uplifted and happy, and isn't that what music should do? I guess that's what made this my favourite show of the ones I've seen in the last month: it wasn't out to prove anything. It was just wonderful.

Bravo. Encore.