1. Music

Concert review: Johnny Clegg dazzles in Montreal

Published Oct. 24, 2017

Our Canadian correspondent, Peter Ryan, knows how to find a good '80s show any given week. Last week, Peter caught Johnny Clegg's show in Montreal. Here's his review.

Savvy members of #80snation will immediately recognize South African Johnny Clegg as one of the most pervasive musical acts over the 20th century's best decade. And, while perhaps best known for his musical contribution to the anti-apartheid movement, many his songs have been synonymous with '80s greatness.

Clegg was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but has already toured through Europe and Africa through the course of 2017, and Montreal's Place des Arts concert hall was one of this first North American stops. The show kicked off with Johnny's son, Jesse Clegg, who played a solid set of four songs. Following a short video tribute to the global career and influence of Johnny Clegg, the crowd then welcomed the headline act to the stage.

After starting with his legendary anthem Africa (What Made You So Strong), Clegg treated the audience of roughly 2,000 to several Zulu dance moves, before performing two songs from his newest album. Clegg then reverted to his 80s catalogue, bringing the crowd to its feet with a vigorous performance of what is arguably his biggest song internationally, 1988's I Call Your Name. He spoke at length about his pride in his two sons' being educated in Canada before launching into Take My Heart Away (which he noted was used by Steve Jobs in 1989 to launch that year's new Macintosh model). Prior to the intermission, Clegg performed a touching rendition of The Crossing, dedicated to his musical partner Dudu Zulu, who was assassinated during South Africa's political upheaval in 1992.

Following the short break, the show continued with a raucous start, treating the crowd to 1989's Cruel Crazy Beautiful World (featured on the Opportunity Knocks soundtrack), Spirit of the Great Heart from the 1987 classic album Third World Child (with Clegg bringing out son Jesse for a duet), and finished with the song that launched his career in the early 80s, Scatterlings of Africa (also noted for its inclusion in the epic film Rain Man).

A fast encore followed, with Clegg performing renditions of 1987's Asimbonanga (that included a video tribute to Nelson Mandela) and finishing up with a haunting rendition of 1989's Dela. While the audience was quick to provide Clegg with multiple standing ovations, none was more profound than when he announced his cancer has gone into remission. Clegg mused that perhaps his Final Journey tour will be one that just keeps going… across the globe, his #80snation fans could not agree more.


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