September 2008

René Lussier and Kevin Breit
at the Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium
September 4, 2008 River Run Centre Guelph
The War of the Fretboys
by Laila Boulos

A very diverse guitarist, Kevin Breit has played with many, many artists, including Holly Cole, The Guess Who, Norah Jones, kd lang, Amos Lee, Harry Manx, Natalie MacMaster, Anne Murray, and Colm Wilkinson. He has also played, and continues to play, in a number of his own popular bands, including Folkalarm, Sisters Euclid, Supergenerous (with Cyro Baptista) and, Guelph Jazz Festival favourites, Tallboys.

René Lussier has also followed a diverse musical path lending his talents to a number of bands, including the progressive rock group Arpège; the folk-progressive group Conventum, led by André Duchesne*; the duo Les Granules with Jean Derome; the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet; La vie qui bat with Pierre Tanguay*; Quatour de l'Enmieux and les Reins; and, Nébu and La G.U.M.

Co-founder of the record label Ambiances Magnétiques, Lussier has also created or co-created scores for over thirty-five films, including Chronique d'un génocide annoncé, a documentary about the Rwandan Genocide by Danièle Lacourse and Yvan Patry.

CBC's Caitlin Crockard, of the programs Fuse and The Signal, warmed up the room announcing that this performance of Kevin Breit and René Lussier was being recorded for future airing on The Signal on Monday, October 6, 2008. The Signal can be heard every night at 10 p.m. on CBC Radio 2.

With the use of special effects and guitars ( Kevin Breit — 3 electric and 1 acoustic; René Lussier — 1 electric) the performance of these two mad scientists of the guitar would provide a space oddity-filled evening of otherworldly sounds.

Playing to a full house, these two created war imagery with the recurring sounds of landslides and rifles; migraine inducing bomb blasts; barrages of emergency vehicle sirens; and, head-splitting air raid alarms.

During the evening, Breit and Lussier very rarely played with, or off, each other, choosing instead to improvise and dazzle individually. This, along with the recurring cacophany of war imagery, gave their performance a disjointed feel. At times, it appeared that one would take the role of musical antagonist while the other became the protagonist as the scattered sound effects catapulted between them.

Interspersed with these sounds, Breit would suddenly lurch into a country hoedown melody coaxing Lussier to jump into the saddle; an offer which he repeatedly declined. This did not deter Breit's enthusiasm for subsequent hoedown offers during the evening.

Kevin Brei

René Lussier

Showing off their freewheeling experimental sides, both Lussier and Breit consistently demonstrated innovative routes to cajoling sounds from their instruments. Many of their improvisations seemed to pay tribute to the work of Brian Eno or Pink Floyd.

While Lussier chose to massage the strings with his open hands while vibrating the guitar furiously, Breit would alternately press with his elbows or appear to madly grate the strings with his hands.

Lussier, demonstrating his own experimental whims, would hold his guitar flat on his lap emitting sounds as if he was playing underwater one minute and then running palms vertically and horizontally over the strings to create aural images of footsteps crunching through snow.

Breit then conjured up the sound effects of at least twenty sopranos in very tight girdles as he held one of his guitars upside down while excruciatingly slowly sliding his hand along the fretboard.

At one point, the witty Lussier stopped playing as he mimed to the audience, "Hey, listen to that guy [Kevin Breit] play. He's pretty good." as everyone laughed. He later made a great show of motioning to the audience to applaud Breit's performance.

Although these two talented guitarists used a variety of sound effects during their performance, it was unclear whether the consistent recurring war-themed effects were personal statements about the current war in Iraq (or the ugliness of war in general) or a typical male penchant for things that go boom.

As the concert came to a close, it had been visually stimulating to watch how some of their effects were being created. In fact, there were definitely many guitarists in the audience who were filing away some of Breit's and Lussier's effects for their own repertoire.

Perhaps the best description of the performance came from a concertgoer who was overheard as the audience filed out of the theatre: "It reminded me of an LSD trip I took in the '70s".

* Andre Duchesne and Pierre Tanguay have also made appearances at the Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Laila Boulos
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2008