Winter snowmen from floor to ceiling, special guests galore and announced by the tinkling of bells, irony and sad songs, Pierre Lapointe offered an almost anti-Christmas show on Thursday at Place des Arts. The magic nevertheless worked: it was brilliant, touching and unifying.
Before even hearing a single note from his album Winter Songs, three years ago, we suspected that it was not because Pierre Lapointe released a “Christmas album” that he fit the mold. The quotation marks count here, because it does not include any known tunes on this disc, which is mainly composed of sad “Christmas” songs.
He explained his trick on Thursday at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier: to make a Pierre Lapointe Christmas song, you basically just need to put a heartbreak in the appropriate context.
We will have understood, Pierre Lapointe invited his audience to celebrate a Christmas more blue than white, at Place des Arts. It was called melancholy, in fact, when he sang It’s okay, I gave, Jules’ first Christmas, The rare bird and All the colors, even if it is carried by lighter music enhanced on stage as on disc by brass.
The singer did not come to celebrate Christmas alone. He was surrounded by a group of five musicians, occasionally supported by two brass instruments and even a string quartet (the Molinari Quartet). And that’s not all: Pierre Lapointe receives guest artists throughout his tour, who all arrive “by chance” from Mother Christmas’s sleigh and are announced one by one by a jingle of bells. Pierre Lapointe feigns surprise each time, ironically nourishing the idea that this show is totally improvised.
He is obviously not and has touched perfection more than once. The duet of Pierre Lapointe and Patrice Michaud on his song Origami was finely executed and of great beauty. Atikamekw artist Laura Niquay left a very strong impression by performing two of her songs. Mitsou made the room smile by reprising her hit Bye Bye mon cowboy and made it stand up by singing Dis-moi-dis-moi, a song formerly accompanied by a clip considered so sulphurous that it had not been presented until very late at MusicMore…
Curiously, the artist with whom the duo went the least well is the only one who was both on the record and in the show: Mélissa Laveaux. Solo, she was able to showcase her superb voice, veiled and creamy. In a duo with Pierre Lapointe, on the other hand, things no longer fit. The oscillations of one seemed to disconcert the other, which was almost completely erased on Noël Lougawou.
Winter Songs, the show, has the air of a disheveled family party: we don’t always understand what this or that guest is doing there, nor why this or that song is performed rather than another. It’s all down to Pierre Lapointe’s favorites and the humor in which he wraps things. Even though he cheerfully deconstructed the magic of Christmas on stage and invited people from extremely diverse backgrounds, he managed the feat of making it a unifying evening.
Proving once again his attachment to the style of the 1960s, he walked in the flowerbeds of Joe Dassin (Every year we come back) and Aznavour (Jules’ first Christmas), winked to Michèle Richard (covering Noël rock, a French adaptation of Jingle Bell Rock) and sang Le Sentier de neige, a lovely song popularized by Les Classels.
Before closing the evening in a celebratory spirit with Ce qu’on sais déjà, Pierre Lapointe orchestrated the most touching moments of his show. He performed Le premier Noël de Jules (introduced by a long and very comical presentation), Maman, Papa and a choral, but very minimal, version of Deux par deux résés, which the crowd sang in unison. It didn’t feel very Christmassy, but magical it was.