I've been to Montreal several times before and always enjoyed myself. One of the interesting things about it is that during the summer there is this air of Constant Festival going on. Not quite like Edinburgh and its Festival, but a number of far more concentrated ones. For example, while we were there, the Lanaudinaire Festival was going on as was the Fantasia Film Festival and the Festival des Nuits d'Afrique and the Francofolies were setting up.
We decided to go for L'International des Feux Loto-Quebec (Loto-Quebec's International Fireworks), Australia night. This was Howard & Son's "Evolution" program, synchronized to music that had "evolved" from its original source (eg, a symphonic version of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters). Wow. For 30 minutes I saw some of the best fireworks I've ever seen (for a complete report, go here). Some highlights: the red glow that accompanied the Light My Fire section (and I usually hate The Doors), the Helter Skelter sequence that seemed chaotic enough to match the music, a golden wall of shimmering lights (don't know the music to that one), the red hearts exploding every time Plant sang the words "Whole Lotta Love" and the finale, One, where the effects started softly, near the water, and grew higher and more powerful as the song built.
When we'd bought the tickets for the fireworks, we hadn't really thought about what else would be going on. Just our luck that just pour rire (Just for Laughs) was also going on - and mostly on the street our auberge was on! I noticed that Craig Ferguson was headlining a night of stand-up while we were there, and so another night out was planned.
I have to say, Ferguson was very, very funny. I'd seen his White House Correspondent's Dinner gig, but not his show, and this convinced me that maybe I should be taping him at night! After his intro (which savaged Tom Cruise: "Twelve feet of crazy in a four-foot man", among other comments), it was clear that the other stand-ups had a lot to live up to. Successes: Steve Byrne ("I'm Irish/Korean, which makes me Cauc-asian"), Craig Hill in his Kilt de Cuir (pronounced "queer", for those of you that don't parlez francais), Glenn Foster (his customer service rant was priceless) and Mike Birbiglia (I dare anyone to be funnier about a tumor on the bladder!). OK: Bob Arno (it went on too long, and how funny is pickpocketing, really?). Near misses: Elvira Kirt (although I loved her line "I'm Eastern European. We don't do nice. We barely do pleasant!"). Could totally live without: Bruce Bruce and Craig Robinson. For better, more comprehensive reviews, go here and here.
Just one question/quibble: at the end of the evening, during the tribute to All Things Scotland, there were bagpipes. Ok, I expected that. What I didn't expect was for them to be playing "The Music of the Night"... I've heard the massed bagpipes at the end of the Edinburgh Tattoo do "Memory" so, here's my question: what does it say about the music of Andrew Lloyd-Webber that it can so easily be translated to the one instrument that everyone agrees sounds like a cat's tail being stepped on? Anyone?