Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON July 4 to 15

Other than a move from city hall to the extra spacious but less urban LeBreton Flats, this year’s line-up for the Ottawa Bluesfest offered little change — still light on conventional blues artists, heavy on nostalgia acts and seating preference for the affluent. Van Morrison and Bob Dylan kicked off the event with consecutive headlining appearances. While Morrison delivered a crowd-pleasing run-through of his most popular hits, Dylan’s set of rearranged classics and material from Modern Times was met with mass tumult at Friday morning water coolers across the city. Australian punk rock sovereigns Radio Birdman’s conflicting set with City and Colour prevented many of the adolescent punk fans in attendance from witnessing a great set by the still virile, if not tired-looking band. Fortunately, the underage pack assembled to watch some of Ottawa’s finest local acts; …As the Poets Affirm, Ukrainia, Jetplanes of Abraham and Hilotrons participated in afternoon shows offering a novel look at these bands outside a club setting. The finest hometown performances were, unfortunately, the least seen as John Akpata and Male Nurse delivered intimate performances at the Barney Danson Theatre. Spoken word artist Akpata and Quebexico guitarist Male Nurse delivered exceedingly literate, inspired sets regardless of their evident limited musical capacity. The White Stripes and Kanye West headlined the two Saturday night slots to immense and diverse audiences. Jack and Meg scuttled through a set of their least known blues-inspired material before closing their second set with a greatest hits showcase. Kanye, equipped with an all-women string section, courted the rain-soaked audience with an energetic live show complete with crowd participation and on-stage posturing. Femi Kuti, Shout Out Out Out Out, George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, DJ Champion and Gogol Bordello received a great deal of enthusiasm from the audience, providing some of the strongest and untamed sets of the festival while the Soiree, Jon-Rae and the River, Ohbijou and Page France played uniformly strong sets, fared less well with a restless, mid-afternoon crowd. Cat Power, Final Fantasy, Randy Newman and Leo Kottke relied on charm and pace rather than muscle to win over festival-goers, while Built To Spill and Sebastien Grainger et les Montanges reduced an eager audience to a stand-still with de facto performances. The festival, however, belonged to the youth with pre-eminent sets courtesy of Spiral Beach and Tokyo Police Club. Both bands, with members still in their teens, brought energy to a festival — famous for its 60-year-old performers — that was equally unforced, original and unmatchable.