By Sandrine Pellassy
After a long 18 – month pause due to the pandemic, the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival came back in full swing in 2022 with 250,000 people attending the 56th edition of the event. The magic started again in Stravinsky Auditorium where an amazing 2022 line up of icons attracted full audiences. This year`s festival took place during the first two weeks of July featuring various genres including pure Rock, Rhythm & Blues, and Alternative Rock. As a photographer it was an unforgettable experience, creating unique opportunities to share some stunning photography inspired by great performances, interactions with leading musicians from all over the world, and dazzling after parties in a magnificent setting. An audience of over a quarter of a million was full of excitement at hearing the music, and attending the creation first conceived in 1967 by a genius, Claude Nobs. Current CEO Mathieu Jaton could be seen enjoying the vibes at the all night after parties centered around the Jam sessions in the Belvédère bar. There was magic in the air and I felt it everywhere, from the Lab to the main stage in the Stravinsky Auditorium, where a uniquely intimate atmosphere was created due to the close proximity of the audience to the stage. In this setting I was overwhelmed by being around the most iconic artists out of a line-up of 100 performers. I will relive with you some of the highpoints of the festival that left us with fond memories of a Montreux Jazz Festival that has returned better than ever.
It all started on July 2nd with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This was a “full on” show full of energy, and the dark cold mood typical of Nick Cave`s style captivated the audience. In playing tracks like “Red Right Hand”, or “Oh Children” legendary Rock icon Nick Cave proved to be one of the top performers at Stravinsky. Nick was performing at his best with the Bad Seeds, displaying great authenticity as they played old and new tracks from his recent album “Seven Spams”.
Clad in his retro pin stripes, Nick Cave never let his audience down or changed his style, as the dark poet maintains a strong bond with his audience connecting with hands and heart at all times. Cave is a perfectionist as a performer, writer, and composer, conveying a mix of emotions of rage, mercy, love, death, and sex, with his poetry. The Australian electrifies the crowds, and is a master performer on stage as well as a guru, connecting with poetry, ballads, intense Rock from the 90`s, and remaining the same as in his first “Birthday Party”concert. Cave will always have an internal charisma of the “rocking Gothic Poet”.
Bjork gave us a powerful, new, and dramatic stage act. Her unique vocals with the Lausanne classical orchestra brought us a new perspective and a real classical experience with this singer. Everyone had to get used to the classical version of Bork with her beautiful, magical vocals and classical orchestra, that was very different from the original Bjork we loved so much during the 90`s.
John Legend and Gregory Porter were both a soulful and incredible presence on stage, making the festival a little more jazzy with some cool Latin American tunes.
French legendary Jacques Dutronc and his son Thomas Dutronc were the perfect match on stage. Starting the show, the iconic Jacques Dutronc performed better than ever with his set of tracks from the 60`s, coming across as vibrant and sensational. Although very different, Jacques and his son had a great mix of songs, culminating in an impressive performance.
Maneskin proved to be the latest, hottest rock band emerging straight from Rome, that won the hearts of both the US and the UK, and also Eurovision 2016. Ever since, the song writer Damiano David has managed to hypnotize the Montreux Jazz Festival with an Iggy Pop like cover as well as a set of their own Italian Rock tracks that rock the planet. They are presently touring the world and commanding a lot of respect in the US and UK rock scene. I had the opportunity to speak with them before the show, and listening to them I was amazed at their lust for life and music, their love of being on the road and sharing the same passion, and their excitement about showing the world their Italian mix of tracks, displaying high energy on stage, and providing output for a new generation of Rock`n Roll. They totally connected with the audience in Montreux, and the entire crowd was singing along when they played “Supermodel” and “I Wanna Be Our Slave”. The Italian Pop Rock group is electrifying, and with Victoria de Angelis, the bass player, brings forth an extra energy from the four members that won the hearts of Pop and Rock`n Roll fans worldwide. Maneskin is a ruling force without a doubt.
The Montreux Jazz Festival would not have been the same without the iconic Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin. Plant came back with a set of inspired “root “songs, including a 1950`s Doo wop sound. The duo Plant and Alisson Krauss sang a decade of cover tracks from Led Zeppelin and a dozen other songs. With his devilish Rock`n Roll mysticism, Plant has shifted both culturally and spiritually with Alisson Krauss on the violin and vocals, as both won the 2008 platinum album of the year. The “plunging into heartbreak” feeling created by the new duo was incredible to experience, as they combined tracks from the 2008 album “Raising Sand”. They displayed seamless harmony in playing Blue Grass style tracks such as “Where the Lonely Go”, or “Somebody Was Watching Over Me” as part of Alisson`s collection of 12 cover songs. Krauss on vocal, and Plant are the perfect classic Rock`n Roll duo as they perform with a band reminiscent of the 50`s with guitar riffs, banjo, violin, and mandolin, hypnotizing the audience at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Plant`s performance of Led Zeppelin tracks is as powerful as ever; while as a magnetic duo both Plant and Krauss, with their boundless array of vocals, are deeply influenced by Blues and Folk music from the American south. These themes are captured in the song book of the reemerging Plant, providing us with rare insights into the past.
Thom York brought his new band, The Smile, to the Lab creating an underground dark mood concert with very unique vocals. Bass player York, as always, managed to control his audience with hypnotic tunes.
Diana Ross, remembered for her Pop songs since the 60`s, was the Diva of the Montreux Jazz Festival. Her disco sound made the perfect come back after four decades of pure soul and funky tunes. She still has her winning smile, coolness and vocals, as well the disco queen style.
At the end of the two weeks, Rock legend Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp as a duo made the ultimate cool and old school Rock performance. Depp created a revival of the dark Rock style from the 80`s, playing a repertoire ranging from four of Hendrix`s cover songs to “Shiny Leather” from The Velvet Underground. Depp showed the Montreux audience his darker side, and his passion for playing live with great guitar riffs.
Van Morrison entertained with his classic tracks such as “Gloria”, with the entire audience singing along, and his old Blues and jazzy tunes. As always, Morrison remained cool and classic. The closing concert with Herbie Hancock performing very cool classic psychedelic jazz, followed by Jamie Cullum, was the perfect way to close the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Following the Jam session, we all went to Stravinsky`s Belvédère bar where we mingled with artists and DJ`s from all over the world that had been a part of the 2022 Montreux Jazz Festival. An unforgettable experience.
The fond memories of the Festival will always stay with us. This legendary event has brought people together to experience live performances of icons since 1967.
The tradition continues stronger than ever, as the show goes on with CEO Mathieu Jaton and his team providing a great forum for real music lovers. Outstanding performances and Jam sessions in a unique setting has made the Montreux Jazz Festival a memorable place to be.