Jean Leloup Southam Hall, Ottawa ON, February 12
Published Feb 13, 2016A sold-out National Arts Centre welcomed Jean Leloup to Southam Hall with a standing ovation last night. The Quebecois singer-songwriter grinned and prowled the stage like a feral animal with his face painted white as a ghost. Showing their appreciation for the only stop outside his home province on his "Le Fantôme de Paradis City" tour, the crowd's enthusiasm drowned him out for the first few songs.
Once he was finally able to play his solo rock ballads, hundreds of fans echoed the lyrics to every song back at him.
Leloup is just one character in a series of stage names for the artist born Jean Leclerc, each subscribing to the same mischievous humour and poetry. His pseudonyms Johnny Welltipper, le Roi Ponpon, and the translated-to-English John the Wolf all serve as vessels for the burnt-out, pop-tinged blues that form his musical backbone. At the end of 2003, though, Leloup publicly ended his two-decade career by giving his favourite instrument a Viking funeral. He incinerated an original 1959 Jazzmaster guitar, along with his iconic top hat, and promised to never play his old songs again. Two compilation albums later, fans were surprised with a concept record titled Mexico in 2006. Released under his real name, Jean Leclerc, the singer-songwriter maintained that Jean Leloup was still dead. Finally, in 2009, he revived his most famous pseudonym and released Milles Excuses Milady. With his globally-influenced sound, Leloup solidified himself as a legend in Quebec folklore many years ago, and the plot continued with last year's À Paradis City being widely received as a solid addition to his discography.
On À Paradis City, Leloup embodies a dead performer giving an eternal encore to a ghost town — a storyline also brought to life on stage at last night's show. When he wasn't miming bizarre conversations and praying for his rotary telephone to ring, the musician stood immobile and wild-eyed as projections of landscapes passed behind him wistfully. In response to everything he did, the Ottawa audience howled in delight. Even when he derisively deconstructed his own lyrics, stopping mid-song to wonder why he wrote that ("It's not even clever, it just rhymes!") they still cheered.
He also thankfully broke his promise to only play new songs because his famous "I Lost My Baby" riled up the audience more than any other, singing about a girl from Ottawa to a crowd in that same city.