Phoque Paul McCartney
Québec City is know for being old, boring and white. A pretty place with a glorious past but whose recent contributions to art, history and culture are far and few between. It’s a wonder anybody is surprised Québec City would ask for (and obtain) a special show by Paul McCartney, the world’s most famous has-been and the idol of old white people worldwide, as it’s special treat for it’s 400th birthday.
Hey, it’s their birthday…
The controversy over Paul McCartney’s show on the Plains of Abraham as part of Québec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations has been erroneously portrayed in the media – this includes Québec’s French-language press – as another fight between bitter Québec separatists who object to an Englishman signing in English in Québec and open-minded federalists who have moved on.
That’s not at all what it’s about.
To understand the controversy properly you need to know two things about Québec City; the first is that Québec City is Québec’s most pro-Canadian town outside Montreal’s English-speaking enclaves and the Outaouais. The second is that it is one of the worlds biggest markets for very very bad music.
Legend has it that the young Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins were about to give up on their pretentious nerd rock band Genesis until they started selling tickets in, of all places, Québec City. The loyal public they found there allowed them to live off their music a little bit longer, until other college students who don’t date started buying their albums.
Québec City is and has always been a place where retired Quebecers and tired music went to wait for death. To this day it is common to hear Rush’s Tom Sawyer and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon between Usher and Avril Lavigne on Québec’s commercial radio stations. Genesis cover band The Musical Box is another one of the summers headliners who will play the Battlefields Park and Elvis Story, a musical revue of the King’s life and music had a near 10 year run at the Capitole, Québec’s historic theater in the heart of the old city!
Just take a look at the headliners of the Festival d’été de Québec this summer: Van Halen, Stone Temple Pilots, Primus, Wyclef Jean… Wasn’t that the lineup at Lollapalooza 98?
That’s Québec city for you…
Nor is it surprising that the people of Québec City did not anticipate that the symbolism of the leader of the so-called “British Invasion” playing on the Plains of Abraham where Britain conquered New France just maybe might offend some people in Québec.
You see, contrary to widespread belief in Canada, Québec City is a conservative and federalist bastion, with even the local chapter of the ultra-nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste still on the fence about national unity. In the 1995 referendum on sovereignty, Québec City’s francophones (that is to say everybody) were among the least favorable to independence in all the province.
Hey, when the Parti québécois offically designated Québec City as Québec’s “National Capital”, the only opposition came from Québec City itself!
Now imagine if the the big finale of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in Ottawa in 2017 was Bruce Springsteen singing Born in the USA! Canadian nationalists would be setting themselves on fire on Parliament Hill! The issue would not be the talent of The Boss or the “open-mindedness” of Canadians. It would just be the wrong event at the wrong time.
It is, however, a little more surprising that organizers did not anticipate that the victims of Paul McCartney’s very visible and dishonest campaign against seal hunting, the only livelyhood of many native and remote communities in Québec, would not seize the occasion to take a shot back at him.
But hey, contrary to what Stephen Harper, Pauline Marois and Paris Match have tried to tell you, this summer’s celebration is not about Canada, the Québec Nation or New France. It’s about Québec City.
And Québec City and Paul McCartney deserve each other.