Editor’s Note: EARCandy Festival happened last weekend at the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, and, I must admit, I was late to the party. On Sunday I had just returned from four days at the “Back to Batoche” event but decided to make a quick jaunt out to the festival and I’m really glad I did. I managed to catch sets by the Mike Langlois fronted Goodfellas, Berk Jodoin and Harelquin. Since we’ll be doing short features on Mike Langlois and Berk Jodoin in our August edition, I won’t comment on them just yet. Instead, I’ll just give you all a brief rundown on Harlequin. No quotes from them or anything, just a straight up review.
by Scott Roos
pics by Scott Roos with editing by Deanna Roos
This past Sunday July 24th, as part of the culmination of the EARCandy Music Festival in Prince Albert, Winnipegan classic rockers Harlequin played for roughly 90 mins to a modest but enthusiastic audience of onlookers inside the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts John G. and Olive Diefenbaker Theatre. Cycling through much of their “greatest hits” catalog, the band played memorable tracks like “Innocence”, “Superstitious Feeling”, “I Did It For Love”, “Sweet Things in Life” and “Thinking of You” among others. They also cranked out surprisingly on point covers of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” and also “With a Little Help From My Friends” (although they took a more Joe Cocker-esque approach to this one).
Collectively the ensemble was very on point. Drummer A.J. Chabidon was in the pocket throughout with Chris Burke-Gaffney on bass and Gary Golden on keys filling out the rhythm section. It’s noteworthy at this point to point out that Burke-Gaffney is also able to fill in on lead vocals on a few songs and do an admirable job. Burke-Gafney was part of 80’s Winnipeg outfits The Pumps and Orphan, so his vocal duties in Harlequin make sense. He’s a bonafide frontman in his own right.
Speaking of frontmen, Belanger, considering that his bands formative years are close to 40 years in the rearview mirror, has been able to maintain his voice and continue to be a force to be reckoned with on stage. Stylistically, Harlequin’s more well known songs lean into the 70’s riff-rock with a dash of prog that bands like Foreigner, Journey, Boston and Styx made famous south of the border. The melodies and hooks are vocally demanding and it sounded, at least from this reviewer's ears, like Belanger can still pull them off in their original keys which is very commendable. Not only that, but Belanger is still very mobile on stage and visually engaging. He’s able to keep the attention of the audience when needed but also give guitarist Derrick Gottfried a chance to shine.
*Belanger was in fine form this past Sunday night! (Pic By Scott Roos)
Gottfried, to his credit, plays the “guitarist with mystique” card very well. He’s got all the classic guitarist poses down pat and he can honestly, pound for pound, stack up to any guitar player of bands of similar vintage to Harlequin that are still active. Actually, forget about similar vintage, Gottfried could pretty much be included in the pantheon of all Canadian rock guitarists who are currently active. He’s that good. He’s honestly a highly underrated talent hiding in plain sight playing for Harlequin. He’s a great fit for the band and pulls out all the stops. He also seems to be having fun on stage which, in the end, all the guys in the band seem to be as well and that is perhaps what makes them all so captivating to watch.
*left to right: Gottfried shreds, Golden shows off his power stance, Drummer Chabidon gifts an audience member a pair of his drumsticks (pics by Scott Roos)
At the end of the day, if Harlequin set out with the main objective to melt the faces of those in attendance and also educate the audience on what a proper rock show should look and sound like then it’s mission accomplished. If the Rawlinson, with the EARCandy Music Festival set out to provide a stage for some great local talent to gain performance experience with a fantastic sound system backing them up then this mission has also been accomplished. Starting up a festival is not an easy task and the Rawlinson has tried, throughout the course of the pandemic, to continue to provide musical entertainment to the good folks of Prince Albert in a number of innovative ways with varying degrees of success. EARCandy should be commended for its well intentioned attempt at giving Prince Albert what will hopefully be another summer festival to look forward to. Harlequin was the metaphorical maraschino cherry on top of a delectable layer cake of artists that EARCandy had on offer this past weekend. Let’s sincerely hope that this will be a continued tradition of delicious musical offerings for years to come.