Must-See Montreal Events in June 2018

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Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for June 2018:


Many top touring acts are headlining various Montreal concert venues this month.

After rehearsing their 2018 Experience + Innocence Tour for two weeks at Place Bell in Laval this spring, U2 headline the Centre Bell on June 5 and 6.

Other Bell Centre headliners include Paul Simon on his Farewell Tour (June 13), British pop crooner Sam Smith (June 19), Vance Joy (June 21) and country diva Shania Twain (June 26).

Thirty Seconds to Mars play at Place Bell (June 8), The Front Bottoms at the Corona Theatre (June 9), and this vintage blast from the past promises to be a good time: This summer’s co-headline tour with Grammy and Brit Award-winning musician Midge Ure (Ultravox / Visage / co-founder of Live Aid and Band Aid), with his old friend and fellow Brit, king of blue-eyed soul Paul Young, performing their hits on the same stage with their All-Star bands, June 11 at Club Soda.

Brit co-headliners Midge Ure and Paul Young

Brit co-headliners Midge Ure and Paul Young

Fascinating gig: the Queer Song Book Orchestra headlines Sala Rossa on June 19. The Toronto-based 12-piece chamber pop ensemble is dedicated to exploring and uplifting queer narratives in pop music.

There are more than 150 indoor concerts at the 39th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal which runs from June 28 to July 7, notably Seal at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on June 28, Dee Dee Bridgewater with The Memphis Soulphony at Theatre Maisonneuve on June 30, as well as (getting a bit ahead of ourselves here) jazz icon Herbie Hancock at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on July 2, the same night Boz Scaggs headlines Theatre Maisonneuve. Then on July 7,  jazz vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin – who received the festival’s Ella-Fitzgerald Award in 2003 – will headline the Maison symphonique de Montréal with his groundbreaking a cappella group Voicestra.

Local shows of note: Be sure to check out the many hard-working Montreal bands and musicians playing on the many free outdoor stages at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal which runs from June 28 to July 7. And do not miss Montreal country-flavoured roots rockers Three O’Clock Train headlining the Folk Fest sur le Canal on June 16, with their legendary frontman Mack MacKenzie. The Folk Fest runs June 14 to 17.


Quebec ‘s Prince of Tenors Marc Hervieux will close the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s 2017-2018 season with a benefit concert at the Rialto Theatre on June 6, with a programme of opera arias, Neapolitan songs and popular French songs, accompanied by Benoit Sarrasin at the piano.

Marc Hervieux: Quebec's Prince of Tenors

Marc Hervieux: Quebec’s Prince of Tenors

The Montréal Chamber Music Festival will showcase the best of jazz and classical music at its 23rd edition, which runs from June 1 to 17.

The festival’s popular JAZZ series is back for three Friday night concerts, beginning with the June 1 musical tribute to one of Montréal’s – and the world’s – great musicians, jazz icon Oscar Peterson. Oscar’s daughter Celine Peterson has selected the artists and program for this personal tribute to her father, which will include Oscar’s own bass player Dave Young, along with jazz heavyweights, pianist Ben Paterson and percussionist Jim Doxas.

Then, at the festival’s Classical Series, the recently-formed New York Philharmonic String Quartet makes its hotly-anticipated Canadian premiere on June 16. The quartet is comprised of four principal musicians from the orchestra: Concertmaster Frank Huang, Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples, Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps and Principal Cello Carter Brey. This new classical super group will perform works by Haydn, Shostakovich and Borodin.


I greatly enjoyed the blockbuster Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex. Visitors will travel back in time to Ancient Egypt where they will meet some remarkable women who became the Royal Wives, mothers and daughters of the pharaohs.

Queens of Egypt features some 350 artifacts, including monumental statues, frescos, sarcophagi, a mummy, funerary objects and jewelry made of gold and semi-precious stones related to such legendary queens as Nefertari, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. The layout is divided into six zones enhanced by animated murals – incredibly life-like projections created by Ubisoft – that transport visitors back in time and bring the exhibition to life. This must-see exhibition runs to November 4, but is a welcome summertime break if you are also looking for some air-conditioned comfort.

Over at the McCord Museum, Cristóbal Balenciaga – legendary Spanish fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house – gets the career retrospective treatment in the North American premiere of Balenciaga, Master of Couture, a major fashion exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Over 100 haute-couture garments and hats are on display, plus sketches, photographs and fabric samples contextualize the garments and patterns, and x-rays, toiles and film reveal details in their construction and making. Balenciaga, Master of Couture runs at the McCord from June 15 to October 14.


The Centaur Theatre closes its 2017-2018 season with a superb remount of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre Production’s 2015 award-winning English adaptation of Michel Tremblay’s landmark 1973 play Hosanna about a drag queen and her biker boyfriend, with Tableau D’Hôte’s original director Mike Payette directing his original cast, Eloi ArchamBaudoin and Davide Chiazzese. They play runs to June 10).

Broadway legend Tovah Feldshuh

Broadway legend Tovah Feldshuh

The Segal Centre for Performing Arts closes its 2017-2018 season with Golda’s Balcony starring Broadway star Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir, Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister. This one-woman tour-de-force – starring Feldshuh – is the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history and earned Feldshuh one of her four career Tony nominations.

“Every time I go out on a stage, I remember this is the first time somebody will see a play, and also the last time somebody will ever see a play,” Feldshuh told me recently. “The audience must be honoured.”

Do NOT miss this eye-popping performance. Golda’s Balcony runs to June 10.

The North American tour of Motown The Musical pitstops at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for eight performances from June 19 to 24. Leading this new tour are Kenneth Mosley as Berry Gordy, Trenyce (of American Idol fame) as Diana Ross, Matt Manuel as Marvin Gaye and Justin Reynolds as Smokey Robinson, with Kai Calhoun and Chase Phillips portraying Berry Gordy’s boyhood counterpart and the roles of young stars Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

Featuring more than 50 classic hits such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Motown The Musical tells the story behind the hits as Diana, Smokey, Berry and the whole Motown family fight against the odds to create the soundtrack of change in America.

Last but not least, the Montreal Fringe Festival runs to June 17. There is lots to see this year, but one production stands out for me: Montreal original Robbie Dillon stars in his one-man-show How To Be A Dick (produced by the Robbie Dillon’s Penis production company), June 7 to 16 at the Montreal Improv Theatre.

Montreal drag legend Mado Lamotte

Montreal drag legend Mado Lamotte

How’s this for a description: “The true story of a man and his penis, locked in a lifelong battle of wills. Is it an introspective examination of male sexuality, or a vulgar celebration of toxic masculinity? It will really depend on how much I’ve had to drink. Lower your expectations.”

Also, do NOT miss the Fringe marquee event, the 18th annual edition of Mado’s Drag Race, hosted by Montreal drag icon Mado Lamotte, and which pits professional and amateur drag queens in a riotous competition, with a three-judge jury that will include myself. Saturday, June 16 from 4 to 6 pm at the Fringe Park. Hands-down the most fun drag event in North America!


An international event celebrating new works in contemporary dance and theatre, the Festival TransAmériques runs to June 7. Do not miss choreographer Crystal Pite and playwright Jonathon Young’s powerful ode to life, Betroffenheit, at the Centre Pierre-Péladeau from June 5 to 7.


Harry Potter fans can not miss Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaba In Concert at at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on June 1 and 2. Relive the magic with the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, accompanied by the Oscar-nominated score by John Williams, performed by live orchestra and choir. The original film will be shown with French subtitles.

And beginning June 29, Cinéma du Parc will screen director Sophie Fiennes’ must-see documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami (I saw it at the 2017 Image + Nation film festival) which was filmed over the course of a decade and takes a look behind the masks and makeup of the style and New Wave icon. Grace Jones is nothing less than remarkable in this documentary film.


New York writer Chelsea Hodson will launch her debut collection of essays, Tonight I’m Someone Else (Henry Holt, 2018) at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on June 19.


A choice summertime destination, the Jardins Gamelin returns to Place Émilie-Gamelin at the western end of the Gay Village, just outside the Berri-UQAM metro station, to September 30.  Les Jardins Gamelin is essentially an oversize patio (or “terrasse” as locals call them) covered by a spectacular suspended sculpture that forms a luminous canopy. The site opens daily at 7 am and features bar services at its snack bar, which opens weekdays from 11 am to 11 pm and from 9 am to 11 pm on weekends. Click here to check out the daily cultural programming, including renowned DJs and live performances. Free admission.


About Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett self-syndicated his national column Three Dollar Bill in over half of Canada’s alt-weeklies for 15 years, has been banned in Winnipeg, investigated by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary over charges TDB was “pornographic”, gotten death threats, outed politicians like former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair, been vilified in the pages of Jamaica’s national newspaper The Gleaner for criticizing anti-gay dancehall star Sizzla (who would go on to write the 2005 hit song “Nah Apologize” about Burnett and UK gay activist Peter Tatchell), pissed off BB King, crossed swords with Mordecai Richler, been screamed at backstage by Cyndi Lauper and got the last-ever sit-down interview with James Brown. Burnett was Editor-at-Large of HOUR until the Montreal alt-weekly folded in April 2011, is Editor-at-Large of The Charlebois Post (Canada), is a columnist and writer for both Fugues and Xtra, writes the POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette, and is the pop culture pundit on The Barry Morgan Show every Friday from 8:30 – 9 pm on Montreal’s CJAD 800 AM Radio. Burnett was named one of Alberta-based Outlooks magazine’s Canadian Heroes of the Year in 2009, famed porn director Flash Conway dubbed Burnett “Canada’s bad boy syndicated gay columnist” and The Montreal Buzz says, “As Michael Musto is to New York City, Richard Burnett is to Montréal.”

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