Pop Montréal 2023 Gave Us Some Of Our Best Live Music Experiences Of The Year

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Pop Montréal 2023 Gave Us Some Of Our Best Live Music Experiences Of The Year


While many artists were given surprisingly long sets for a festival context, Tangerine Dream were allotted a full two hours at L’Oympia. Throughout, everything sounded massive, immersive. The three members stand silent behind their keyboards, dark figures in flickering lights against graphic backdrops. It’s not about them. It’s about these gigantic waves of sound, often pulling off the same (very effective trick) — building and building layers of cascading synths, a beat locking in, everything feeling equally like it’s taking you down a wormhole deep inside your mind or way up into the stratosphere. You could see how the show itself is malleable. It’s just as easy to imagine them in a nightclub, bodies colliding under strobe lights. In the context of their performance on Sunday, it was almost more like we were witnessing a classical performance, or an art piece. After four nights of running around Mile End catching gigs all over the place, it felt like some sort of closing ceremony, a performance to just let wash over you.

Dazed and with my ears ringing, I figured that was it, there was no more music left, and nothing could follow that anyway. But then some festival associates whisked me away in an Uber back up to Mile End, back to the Rialto, in hopes of catching a small bit of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s set. We walked in as he walked offstage, having performed his final song. But soon he returned for an encore, in which he casually asked for requests, and the rapt audience hollered a whole array of songs they’d like to hear. It went on like this for two encores and nearly half an hour, including Oldham performing Sinead O’Connor’s “Queen Of Denmark.” It was a completely different experience than Tangerine Dream, but just as powerful a conclusion — a hushed, communal space, all the noise of the weekend subsiding to just a man and an acoustic guitar.

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