We have a meeting with Damien Robitaille at the beginning of the afternoon. He knows the Théâtre de la Ville well – he now lives in Beloeil, but he lived in Longueuil for 10 years. “This is where we put on the show, we had a small residency. » The Franco-Ontarian singer returned to the road at the end of November with his Christmas show for around twenty performances, which takes him from Lac-Saint-Jean to Beauce, and will take him through the Montreal Casino and the Grand Théâtre de Québec next week.

While we chat around the table in the dressing room common room, his tour director and sound engineer Mathieu Sévigny, who has followed him for six years, serves him an espresso straight from the machine they bring with them on tour.

“Mathieu is like a brother. I am so lucky to have him. I’ve never traveled so much with someone! »

Since the release of his album Soon It Will Be Christmas in 2019, Damien Robitaille has become a symbol of the holiday season. He also released two new original songs this year, My Christmas Star and Noel, Once Again, which he included in the show. But what makes a good Christmas song?

“Joyful nostalgia. » Create something new by drawing inspiration from the past – the sound references and the lexical field to respect, the arrangements.

But above all you have to “be real”. That’s what he did, sincerely composing a bouquet of songs, putting heart and effort into it, and all his love for Christmas music.

During the sound check, it’s already impressive to see him keeping the rhythm while playing the piano and singing. Seriously, we wonder how his brain works. He doesn’t really know what to answer, other than that it’s a question of repetition. “These are muscles that do the same thing over and over again. By doing it, you get used to your fingers doing one thing by tapping your foot. »

There is something ingenious in his work plan, which he has improved over the years. It’s a question of necessity: as financial conditions become more and more difficult, artists of his generation have become more creative in the way they do things, he believes.

It is of course by creating songs of the day on the web during the pandemic that Damien Robitaille refined his technique – the maraca held with a brace around the knee is still brilliant! If he does less now, we can say that in 327 times he has acquired some expertise. And he continues to love the challenge it represents, both in playing the songs and in editing them.

After the sound check, the small team meets to eat: Damien, Mathieu Sévigny, lighting designer Marc-André Alie, bassist Marie-Anne Arsenault and multi-instrumentalist David Simard. ” I love that. We just see each other at Christmas, like family! », says the singer. After dinner, there is joyful complicity in the dressing rooms while we prepare for the show. The three musicians listen to a Cameroonian song that they have just discovered, Damien chooses his outfit for the evening and irons his shirt. Does he still feel stressed before a show? “A little while, yes, but not like before! And since it’s a more staged show, it’s more routine. » We confirm in any case that five minutes before going on stage, he was still sitting on the sofa chatting…

The 900-seat venue is full, like the rest of the tour. And we understand why Damien Robitaille attracts the public: his show is joyful and light, and it does a lot of good. For a good two hours, he performs on stage, well supported by the musicians – David Simard is a talented multi-instrumentalist who brings a very festive element with the violin, mandolin and podorythmy, while the gifted bassist Marie-Anne Arsenault also provides backing vocals with enthusiasm.

Surrounded by fir trees, with windows that suggest he is welcoming us into his living room, Damien Robitaille alternates between his Christmas songs (and non-Christmas songs too, adapted with a wink) and holiday classics that he puts on his hand, interacts a lot with the audience and is clearly having as much fun as we are.

The Damien Robitaille way is to not take yourself seriously while offering a generous spectacle in every sense of the word. The segment devoted to an anthology of songs of the day is spectacular. Alone at the piano with all his paraphernalia, he performs a phenomenal quantity of songs for at least 40 minutes – he would have done half that and we would have already been impressed. He finishes this part literally swimming, but even if it is physically demanding, we never see him slacking.

If there are more tender moments or ones that lead to contemplation, it is first and foremost a festive and funny show. And generous, we can never repeat it enough: Damien Robitaille plays and sings with all his heart, with all his heart, all the time. We can only admire him for that, and love him even more.