Socalled Le Divan Orange, Montreal QC January 13

Back when rap was relatively exclusive to inner-city hip-hop heads, apart from the occasional crossover novelty song, who could have imagined Canadian klezmer rap ballads getting heavy rotation on French radio? But so it has come to be with "You Are Never Alone,” by Socalled (aka Josh Dolgin), who introduced the song at Divan last month with some surprise (and self-deprecating digs) over his achievement. Of course, France is famous for its strange success stories (Jerry Lewis, iPod battles), and Socalled is nothing if not a strange, multi-talented showman. Born in Ottawa, raised in Chelsea, QC, schooled and based in Montreal, he’s a rapper and beatmaker, accordion and piano player, music journalist and magician. Though, at this particular show, he didn’t quite succeed on a couple of these fronts — his un-miked solo piano song was inaudible to much of the jammed room, and his two attempts at some kind of rope trick sadly failed — but with ample samples, guest vocalists Katie Moore and Subtitle, and guitarists who laid on the riffs just right, he pretty much had the room by the short hairs. There was a fair amount of traffic up front, with singers, rappers and players switching up their gear and a few bathroom-bound punters using the stage as a short-cut, the periodically jaunty tempos (not to mention Socalled’s sci-fi hair) lending a comic twist to the chaos. The beats regularly slowed to an easy groove, picking up again with tunes like "These Are the Good Old Days” and a disco rendition of Dolly Parton’s "Jolene.” Overall, the show was a grab-bag full of goodies.