Published Jul 01, 2013The Montreal Jazz Festival is rightfully renowned for its plethora of international superstars, but it's also an important gig for many local artists looking to step up to a huge audience. South Africa via Montreal singer Lorraine Klaasen is no stranger to festival stages around Central Canada, and this concert marked a celebration of sorts for her 2013 Juno-winning album Tribute To Miriam Makeba. Fellow South African and civil rights notable Makeba was best known for the huge hit "Pata Pata" during the 1960s, still one of the biggest pop successes ever by an African singer, but over time she forged a pan-African sound.
That's where Klaasen's tribute was rooted, because her band was only passable as a South African-centric combo, and there sure as heck aren't too many djembe drums in that country's music. Klaasen is a very good singer and has stage presence to spare, but she's not as skilled a bandleader. When the band should have been tightly focused on supporting her vocals, it seemed like everyone had to get their little licks in on the action. While individuals were reasonably skilled, all the ifs, ands and buts in the music sapped the momentum of the songs. They were a pretty good band, but not good enough to get away with that kind of grandstanding.
Another issue was that Makeba is probably best known as an icon and less for her repertoire, so while "Pata Pata" successfully ignited the audience's response mechanism, detours into dead slow jams like "Summertime" completely killed the vibe without killing band's showy tendencies. This show needed discipline befitting Klassen's accomplishments as a singer and recording artist. Instead, it was a perfectly adequate free, outdoor show with flabby grooves that only sometimes hit the mark.