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Melissa Etheridge, Joss Stone electrify audience at 38th annual Montreal International Jazz Festival

Colette Greenstein | 7/20/2017, 6 a.m.
Etheridge, who hadn’t performed at the Montreal International Jazz festival in 28 years, more than made up for the lost ...
The Four Tops performed their classic hits at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier Place des Arts on July 6 as part of the 38th Annual Montreal International Jazz Festival. The Four Tops and The O’Jays performed an “old school” double bill before a sold-out audience. Victor Diaz Lamich

“If you want love in the world, be that love,” said Melissa Etheridge during her nearly two-hour performance at this year’s Montreal International Jazz Festival. Etheridge who hadn’t performed at the music festival in 28 years, more than made up for the time lost since her last performance in 1989.

Delivering songs primarily from her 2016 “Memphis Rock And Soul” album, Etheridge was absolutely incredible as she commanded the stage. The veteran musician was heartfelt and gracious about returning to the Montreal venue. She thanked the sold out audience at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier Place des Arts for welcoming her back, and for welcoming her originally in 1988 with the release of her debut album, “Melissa Etheridge.”

Of “Memphis Rock And Soul” (a tribute to the legendary musicians and songwriters from Stax Records’ heyday), the singer/songwriter said she picked the songs because she “could relate to the soul of them.”

And there was plenty of soul and blues, as well as R&B and reggae, on this particular festival night. British singer Joss Stone opened the show as part of a double bill with Etheridge. Stone, whose booming vocals filled the concert venue, gave a powerful performance singing several of her own songs, including “Victim of a Foolish Heart” and “Put Your Hands On Me.” She gave a rousing finale with her soulful version of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.”

The concert hall was filled to the rafters with excitement, energy and music. Seguing from her album “Memphis Rock And Soul” with “Come To My Window” and “I’m The Only One” off of her 1993 Grammy Award-winning album “Yes I Am,” Etheridge demonstrated her love, passion and respect for the music and the audience.

Toward the closing of her show, Etheridge brought Stone back out on stage to join in singing the Janis Joplin classic “Piece of My Heart,” which the two singer/songwriters hadn’t performed together since their 2005 Grammy Award tribute to Joplin.

And that’s what the Montreal International Jazz Festival is

all about. It’s about bringing people together through music, finding a common ground to celebrate and simply making people feel good.

This was evident throughout the festival. During The Four Tops performance on July 6 (also at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier Place des Arts), the near-capacity crowd was up on its feet, singing and clapping as the legendary group sang several of its classic songs from “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “When She Was My Girl” to “(Reach Out) I’ll Be There” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).”

On July 7, the audience at the Gesù welcomed Cuban Latin jazz pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa. The Havana-based musician and his trio (which includes his brother and drummer Adrián Ruy López-Nussa) moved between classical and jazz and Cuban rhythms and sounds. The music was exciting, lighthearted and fun.

Simply put, it made you feel good, and that’s the beauty of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Set in the heart of downtown Montreal — against a backdrop of history, food, culture, music and art — the festival featured more than 500 concerts, 10 concert venues, nine outdoor stages, and more than two million attendees. Over eleven days, the city is filled with music from noon to midnight. The festival never ceases to amaze.