Neil Young tops FEQ 2018 headliners

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Photo: FEQ

Neil Young will be headlining the FEQ on July 6 on the Bell stage.

Getting Canadian rock legend Neil Young on the Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ) stage has long been a goal for festival organizers. “I’ve been trying to get him forever,” says Louis Bellavance, programming director for the festival. After FEQ organizers persistently lobbied Young’s New York agent, and it turned out that Young’s preferred musical collaborators, Willie Nelson’s sons, were available, the stars aligned for Young, 72, to put on his first show ever in Quebec City. He will perform on the Plains of Abraham on Friday, July 6.

Young is among four Canadian acts to headline on the giant FEQ stage on the Plains. Others are The Weeknd (July 5), Shawn Mendes (July 8) and Quebec folk-rocker Patrice Michaud (July 10), who will lead the traditional francophone Carte Blanche night.

Bellavance was born in 1972, the same year Young’s landmark album Harvest came out. He says he’s always been a big admirer of the Toronto-born, California-based performer.

Once Young expressed interest in coming to Quebec City in January, the deal came together quickly when Bellavance managed to book Lucas Nelson and his band, Promise of the Real, which includes brother Micah Nelson. “There was only the one day [available] because Lucas is flying the next day to play with Eric Clapton in Hyde Park [in London],” Bellavance explains.

Bellavance exchanged emails with Young through his longtime agent. “He [Young] wanted to know all about us,” the programming director recalls. Within a matter of days, FEQ became only one of three shows Young will give this year.

Of all the bookings he has made over the years, Bellavance says “this one is special.”

“[Young] is still so passionate; you can tell he’s there for all the right reasons. He wants to play music and not just collect the cheques.”

Young is making his Quebec debut, as are American indie rocker Beck and the Dave Matthews Band. One band, though, is making good on a promise to return after an aborted earlier show. The Foo Fighters, the band Dave Grohl formed after the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, had their 2015 performance cut short after just four songs by a powerful thunderstorm. Grohl joked he would have played on except the rain was dissolving the cast he had on his leg from an earlier stage accident. The Foo Fighters, a new Grammy award in hand, play the big stage on July 9.

Friday, July 13, promises to be an especially big night for women. The headliner is New Zealand singer-songwriter and multiple Grammy winner Lorde. Preceding her will be a top star of her own generation, Cyndi Lauper. Hot Quebec duo Milk and Bone is the opening act.

This year’s edition of FEQ will include a new venue, one of the oldest performance spaces in the city. Le Théâtre du Petit-Champlain will host jazz acts from Canada and around the world. There will also be a Quebec-Acadian night, with details to come.

What won’t be in this edition of FEQ is a headlining country act, after what Bellavance calls a three-year experiment, beginning with the smash success of Keith Urban in 2015. “We felt that this was not growing the way a new trend should be growing,” he explains. He says in the absence of a sensational act, “we’ll skip a year” of a country headliner, adding that popular country performer Sturgill Simpson will be opening for Dave Matthews on the last night of the festival, July 15.

Passes are $100 this year, rising to $110 on June 5. Pricier passes closer to the stage are already sold out. FestiBUS passes will be available again this year. FEQ  Louis Bellavance, programming director, and Claude Doré, interim managing director of the Festival d’Été de Québec, announce the lineup for this summer’s concert series.   (Photo by Shirley Nadeau)