The annual POP Montreal festival has just wrapped up its 11th edition. Featuring hundreds of artists from the indie rock scene—and quite a handful of them hailing from Montreal—POP Montreal also showcased numerous films, (Film Pop), and art exhibits, (Art Pop), during its four-day run from Sept.25-29.
On Thursday, CBC Radio One’s Jian Ghomeshi brought his popular show Q to the Olympia theatre. Ghomeshi, the silky-smooth baritone-voiced broadcaster of Iranian descent, has spoken to notable musicians, actors, and writers since the show first began in 2007.
If you’ve ever watched or listened to his show, you’d know that his introductions are the stuff of legends. His interviews function differently than your average late-night talk show; the guests seem more at ease as the clever host combines a genuine sense of curiosity with sharp pertinent questions. Thus, entertainers are able to simply be themselves and lower their guard, instead of attempting to keep up an act.
During his interview with comedian Louis C.K. for example, the nature of Ghomeshi’s therapy session-like abilities are evident as he engages in thoughtful conversations rather than merely playful—but eventually meaningless—banter. The most wonderful thing about that interview may be the fact that C.K. doesn’t crack a single joke throughout the conversation. Instead he’s allowed to simply muse about life in an introspective sort of way. That’s the kind of effect Ghomeshi has on his guests, and as usual, this was the case last Thursday.
The first guest of the night was Montreal’s very own piano man, Patrick Watson, the angelic-voiced musician whose ethereal songs have been featured in numerous films and TV shows. For Watson, the burgeoning Montreal music scene is one based more on collaboration and less on competition. He later performed a few songs with the help of his backup band.
The second guest of the night was Canadian author Louise Penny, who stands as something of a hero within the nation’s literary scene. Her latest novel How The Light Gets In, debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestsellers list, quite an accomplishment given that she is in competition with J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown.
The show then took a serious tone as it featured a discussion regarding the controversial Charter of Quebec Values with a panel including Journal de Montreal’s Lise Ravary, La Presse’s Marc Cassivi and CBC’s C’est La Vie’s Bernard St-Laurent. Ghomeshi’s willingness and ability to discuss music, literature, and somehow seamlessly turn the page towards more current social affairs is a truly remarkable gift.
His quick wit has always been evident, but it’s his attention to detail and the extensive research on his subjects that make him one of the most brilliant and well-respected radio hosts in Canada. It’s these characteristics that brought a nearly sold-out crowd to the Olympia theatre.
Following that sobering conversation, Braids, a fast-rising Montreal-based indie rock band, nominated for the 2011 Polaris Music Award, performed a song from their latest album Flourish // Perish. They then discussed the process of recording an album as a three-piece rather than a four-piece band. Given his past as a member of a ‘90s Canadian folk-rock group, Ghomeshi not only respects the process of music making, he thoroughly understands it.
Coming off his insanely popular bilingual comedy show Le Show Franglais: You’re Gonna Rire, the host then sat down with his good friend and Montreal comedian,Samir Khullar a.k.a. Sugar Sammy. They discussed comedic inspiration, such as Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, and his future plans, which include a bilingual comedy show in India. There was likely a sense of great mutual pride for each other, since both Ghomeshi and Khullar are quintessential Canadian success stories: first-generation immigrants who have won fame, success and accolades within their respective fields.
But perhaps the show-stopper of the night was the hilarious Antoine Bertrand. An actor known more for his comedic roles, he sat down with the CBC host to talk about his latest dramatic film, Louis Cyr, based on the famous French-Canadian strongman.
Ghomeshi wrapped up this live taping in Montreal with another performance by Patrick Watson, ending the evening on a beautiful note.
It would almost be a disservice to refer to CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi as simply another radio show. In fact, it’s become so popular that every episode is taped live in studio to be streamed on its official website and broadcasted on CBC television. He transcended radio long ago. As an award-winning journalist and a best-selling author, for his autobiography 1982, Ghomeshi is now a formidable staple in Canadian pop culture, a celebrity in his own right who interviews celebrities for a living.
Photographs by Keith Race, Jessica Romera