Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Céline Dion, Metallica: they have hosted the biggest stars in the world, and Quebec artists dream of playing there once in their lives. After a two-year hiatus due to sanitary measures, the Plains of Abraham, which has become one of the most important stages in America thanks to its capacity of 90,000 spectators, is ready to create new lasting memories.  ;
From July 6, at the Festival d'été de Québec, Charlotte Cardin, Luke Combs and Rage Against The Machine will come up against this monster that Patrice Michaud, who tamed the beast in 2018, calls it “exciting and intimidating”.
Louis Bellavance < p>“If you have a show to see in your life, you want to see it on the Plains,” says FEQ programming director Louis Bellavance.
With a natural slope that stretches as far as the eye can see and located in the heart of Quebec City, the Plains of Abraham site is unique and strikes the imagination of all those who have the chance to play there, even international stars (see texts below).
“What we offer is consecration. For a Quebecer, it's the biggest show you can do and it's the biggest an international artist can do in Canada too. That's what Bon Jovi, Imagine Dragons or anyone would tell you. This is not chauvinism, it is factual. There are no crowds like that anywhere else,” says Mr. Bellavance.
From Félix to Sir Paul
The myth of the Plains dates back to the mid-1970s when Félix Leclerc, Gilles Vigneault and Robert Charlebois brought together a crowd that was then estimated at 120,000 people, on August 13, 1974, for the show J'ai vu le loup, the fox, the lion.
Thereafter, headliners, mainly from Quebec, perform the beautiful evenings of the Summer Festival, and memorable Saint-Jean shows take place there.
Everything changed when the FEQ, in decline, turned to the big names and presented ZZ Top on the Plains, in 2005. Three years later, Paul McCartney came to the 400th. The success is dazzling. Since then, dozens of stars of all musical styles – metal, rock, pop, country, rap, electro – have made the Plains.
“Every year, a dozen artists we’ve done since 2012 call back to ask if we’ll take them back. The Chainsmokers, a year and a half later, they wanted to be there,” says Louis Bellavance.
Besides its dimensions, what what makes the Plains site so special? Louis Bellavance talks about the communion between the public and the artists. “We have a level of attention that is hard to come by in 2022.”
There is also the weight of history, points out Patrice Michaud, evoking the Battle of the Plains between the English and the French in 1759.
“To put both feet there and still sing in French in front of people who come to receive this song, centuries later, it's still extraordinary. What a fine snub to war! For me, the Plains is anything but a battlefield.”
Only for Quebec artists ( see texts below), do the Plains by sneaking into the FEQ schedule between a pop star and the kings of heavy metal, it's quite a challenge.
“I didn't want to do it, admits Vincent Vallieres. I knew the scope and impact it could have on my journey. The positive and negative impact. If I did, it had to be exceptionally good. It has to be a memorable show. It felt like a responsibility.”
To get there, believes Isabelle Boulay, you have to adopt the mentality of a boxer.
“The public is not your opponent, obviously, people are more to seduce, but it must be a bit the same kind of emotions. For a fight, you prepare months in advance, you imagine, you know who you are going to face. It gives you immense vertigo, but at the same time, it's extremely exhilarating.”
THE 2022 STARS OF THE PLAINES
< strong>The Summer Festival will be held from 6 to 17 July
Rage Against The Machine
< p style="text-align:center;">17
Half Moon Run
International stars conquered
Since the mid-2000s, the Festival d’été de Québec has turned to international stars to fill the immense Plains of Abraham. The success was there. Tens of thousands of festival-goers turned out every evening and artists fell in love with this natural amphitheater in the heart of the city. Here's what the stars who played on the Plains said.
“There were lines of people everywhere. It's been years since I've seen something like this.”
– Paul McCartney, interview with Journal< /em>, about his concert on the Plains for the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, July 20, 2008.
“Since playing in Canada, I have never seen a crowd of this size so enthusiastic. If there's one gig that couldn't have been better, it's this one.”
– Bryan Adams, interview in the Journal, about his concert on the Plains on July 13, 2014.
“It's the biggest crowd in front of which we played. Thank you Quebec, we feel good here.”
– Wesley Schultz, during The Lumineers concert, July 8, 2016.
“It was fabulous, absolutely fabulous. I love you. We'll see you again.”
– Lionel Richie, during his concert on the Plains, July 7, 2012.
“I've been doing this damn job for 50 years and this is the first time I've been here.”
– Billy Joel, during his concert on July 11, 2014.
“Quebec, you are the most beautiful place we have visited during this tour.”
– Bruno Mars, during his concert on the Plains, July 8, 2013.
“… And thank you to the public of the Festival d'été de Québec – all 102,000 – what a great way to end our tour. See you soon.”
– Mick Jagger, on Twitter, after the Rolling Stones concert on the Plains, July 15, 2015.< /p>
“It's probably the best concert of my life and I'm not saying that because I'm talking to a Quebec journalist. I also say this to the Italians, to all the others. Who has ever experienced the Plains of Abraham one day, to the end, with rain for two hours and people singing? What a memory!”
– Patrick Bruel, in an interview with the Journal, about his concert on the Plains, July 14, 2015.
“I was giving an interview the other day and I was asked to name my favorite gigs of my entire career. The Festival d'été de Québec was number 1.”
– Keith Urban, in an interview with Journal, at about his concert on the Plains, July 10, 2015.
“The show triggered several things. It was a gigantic concert. It was our first concert in North America in nine years. Obviously the crowd was amazing. It was the start of a new era for us in America.”
– Richard Z. Kruspe, on Rammstein's Plains show, July 18, 2010.
“This wonderful summer concert will never be forgotten.”
– Lorde, during his concert on the Plains, July 13, 2018.< /p>
“It's the best show we've done.”
– Lady Gaga, during her concert on the Plains, July 4, 2014.
“It was one of our best shows. We have a picture of us on stage with the crowd behind going all the way to the top of the hill. We've been using it ever since as a promotional photo for our fan club.”
– Lars Ulrich, interview with Journal >, about the Metallica concert on the Plains, July 16, 2011.
“I could see the flashes behind the crowd. Remember how wild the crowd was? Before we got there, they were chanting “Foo Fighters”. 70,000 people or whatever. I was like, Damn, this is going to be a good show. And Pat said, 'As long as the storm doesn't hit.'”
– Dave Grohl, in a documentary, about the concert of the Foo Fighters on the Plains cut short by rain, July 11, 2015.
Les cartes blanches to the rescue of Quebec artists
< strong>Invaded by international stars, the Plains of Abraham were no longer as hospitable as they used to be for Quebec artists at the beginning of the 2010s. The concept of carte blanche came to their rescue. < /p>
Times were tough for our artists ten years ago. While Metallica, Rammstein and Kiss drew crowds in the tens of thousands, Quebecers who dared to take on the challenge of the Plains and variety shows featuring artists from the Francophonie were content with crumbs.
Louis Bellavance, who was appointed director of programming in 2012, puts things into perspective.
“It was never a disaster, but we had Quebec artists who played in front of crowds of fifteen thousand people. It's far from disappointing. For an artist here, it may be the biggest crowd of his career, except that on the Plains, it looks empty, everyone thinks it's sad, the media thinks it's is a flop, the organizers too, and the artist has had a bad experience.”
A push was needed.
This year- there, Vincent Vallières knows the success of his life thanks to his ballad On va s'aimer encore. This is a great opportunity to offer him the Plains, but “it's not true that I'm going to ask him to go and plant himself in front of 15,000 people”, says Louis Bellavance, who decides to increase the budget for the show.< /p>
“If submit, without budget be astronomical, we put the package on a guy like Vincent once in his life.
The FEQ tried the experiment and Vincent Vallières invited Marie-Pierre Arthur, Louis-Jean Cormier, Richard Séguin, Olivier Langevin and Yann Perreau to join him on stage.
Despite the rain, the result was the height of expectations.
“The show ended in a deluge, but we had seen a lot of people show up on the field. There was media and public interest around this show. There was a buzz. That’s what we wanted.”
The carte blanche formula was born.
THE FEQ’S CARTES BLANCHE
The Three Accords
Coeur de pirate and Fred Pellerin
Isabelle Boulay and Les Cowboys Fringants
No shows on the Plains
Charlotte Cardin, Loud and Half Moon Run
“Your boy plays on the Plains”< /strong> – Patrice Michaud
Of all the opportunities that Patrice Michaud offered the public to express their satisfaction during his concert on the Plains of Abraham in 2018, few provoked a greater outcry than when the Gaspé artist called out to his parents.
“Hey dad, mom, your boy is playing on the Plains,” proudly exclaimed Patrice Michaud, looking towards the VIP area, where said parents were.
< p>Four years later, he still remembers the public's reaction to those few words.
“People screamed. I had fucking the impression of being Bruce Dickinson”, image, in interview with Journal, this great admirer of Iron Maiden.
“It was the first time I heard the roar of 40,000 people responding to what I had just said. You can hear this noise being in the crowd and already, it's impressive, but when it's you who causes it… Am I going to experience it again one day? Not sure.”
It was planned
What we don't know is that this moment was not improvised. Patrice Michaud, who saw dozens of shows on the Plains of Abraham while living in Quebec City, thought about it during the hours leading up to his concert.
“I didn't really know how to explain to the people of Quebec that I spent more time in their place [in the crowd] than here [on stage]. They came to see the kidfrom home, but I couldn't find the formula. And if I couldn't find her, I wouldn't have done it. At some point, I turned on. Speaking to mum and dad, there's not a dad, mum or child of a parent who hasn't understood what it means.”
Once again, Patrice Michaud had been able to find the good words.
“I felt small, but I had to be big” – Isabelle Boulay
Isabelle Boulay knew very quickly, at the start of her concert on the opening night of the 2017 Summer Festival, that she would successfully meet the challenge of singing on the Plains of Abraham.
She had just started singing The Moon when all doubts were erased.
“We know it a quarter of the way through the first song. The connection with the public was made quickly. Deep inside me, I felt that it was going to be fine, that I had taken people the right way, “says the Gaspé artist, who was celebrating his 45th birthday and 25 years of career, this that evening.
Despite her vast experience and the fact that she already knew the site from having already participated in National Day shows and a few special events, Isabelle Boulay admits that a mixture of fear and excitement inhabited her during the last hours. before the start of his carte blanche.
“It’s a bit like when you do important venues such as the Olympia in Paris. The step is higher to climb than usual because the place has been trodden by people you have admired before. On the Plains, I felt small, but at the same time, I told myself that I had to be tall.”
Isabelle Boulay has vivid memories of this extraordinary evening.
“These are looks that remain impregnated in me. When your eyes crash into people's eyes. I remember the reaction of the public, its rumor. It's an unforgettable memory,” says the one who, like many others, was marked by the little sparkling red lights of the buttons worn by the festival-goers.
“My God, how lucky I was. I didn't think there were going to be so many people. It impressed me.”
“It was magic” – Vincent Vallières
What do the Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons and Vincent Vallières have in common?
These are the three headliners of the Festival d’été who, over the past ten years, have been forced to put an end to a concert on the Plains of Abraham due to a violent storm. However, unlike the two American formations, Vincent Vallières did not return quietly to his hotel on the evening of July 15, 2012, when the elements were unleashed.
He decided instead to go and finish his show in the dry, at Ninkasi, a bar on rue Saint-Jean which contains a lot less people than the Plains.
“The rain helped make this evening even more unforgettable. As much as I was sad about the turn of events, as much the fact of going to finish it Ninkasi-style on a small stage with the whole same gang (Louis-Jean Cormier, Marie-Pierre Arthur, Olivier Langevin and Yann Perreau, among others ), it showed the solidarity of the band and the musicians. It was magical.”
“Are you kidding us?”
Max Lemire was at work, in a cell phone repair shop, when he received the call. It was the turner of his group, Dance Laury Dance, who informed him that they were going to open for Metallica on the Plains of Abraham in July 2011.
“ Shut up, you sure are kidding us,” he replied.
He wasn’t kidding.
The day of the show was crazy in the city. A huge crowd was expected. It came even more than what was anticipated. It was overflowing everywhere. “We arrived early because we thought we had to take advantage of the whole day, behind the scenes. It was perhaps the only time it was going to happen”, relates Max Lemire.
Once on stage, he remembers the view that was offered to the members of Dance Laury Dance.
“There were people as far as the eye could see. We are guys from Quebec, we saw the Summer Festival grow, the Saint-Jean shows when it was a real party. We know what the Plains are. To see it overflowing to infinity, the fences falling, the scale, that's what struck me the most.”