The Many Voices Of Andre-Philippe Gagnon

If imitation is a sincere form of flattery, Andre-Philippe Gagnon has been flattering people for almost three decades.

As a hockey-playing youth, Gagnon got his start by imitating his hockey coach for his teammates in the dressing room. But if a definitive date was to be put on when Gagnon’s career really started to take flight, it would be 1985.

That year, Gagnon appeared at Montreal’s famed Just For Laughs Festival, delivering a crowd-pleasing show in which he impersonated, with stunning accuracy, each of the artists who appeared on the song We Are The World.

That performance lead Gagnon to be invited to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, exposing the Quebec native to an audience of more than 15 million viewers. From there, Gagnon’s career just gathered steam.

Sold-out, record-breaking tours of his home province of Quebec ensued while his inter national profile continued to grow. In 1998, Gagnon was invited to participate in Celine Dion’s ‘Let’s Talk About Love’ world tour culminating in Gagnon’s performance being witnessed by an astounding 150,000 spectators in a single evening.

Such monumental events are not lost on Gagnon, even today. Arguably one of the most humble entertainers in the business today, the man of 400 voices returns to Metro Moncton for a performance at Casino New Brunswick on Tuesday evening.

Reached at his home in the Montreal area, Gagnon insists that things are rather great in his world these days. He tells The Times & Transcript that summer has been somewhat relaxed for him with only a handful of appearances under his belt. September is a whole other story for the entertainer however. ‘I’ve been enjoying some time off in Montreal at the tail end of what was a fantastic summer,’ Gagnon says, noting that his summer included a performance at the Just For Laughs Festival.

‘September has me busy all over the continent. Aside from my upcoming shows in New Brunswick, I have shows scheduled for Las Vegas and Toronto as well as Western Canada. I am looking forward to getting back on the road in some ways though. It is nice to keep busy.’ Keeping busy should not be a concernfor Gagnon’s. After all, this is a performer who routinely spends more than half of the year on the road.

In the not too distant past, Gagnon had taken up residency in Las Vegas, bringing his family along for the ride. Though some might question raising a family in ‘Sin City’, Gagnon says that the benefits of having a steady show in the same city week after week greatly benefitted his family.

‘My family was absolutely fantastic the whole time we were living in Las Vegas,’ he shares, adding that while French was being spoken in their home, his children were learning English and Spanish in the American school system.

‘It was probably a 20-minute drive from where we were living in Las Vegas to where I was performing. Essentially, I’d leave to go to my show once the kids were in bed for the night but was there to wake up with the kids the next day. Family life was truly excellent.

‘Had you asked me the first time I perfor med in Las Vegas in 1987 if I thought that the city could provide me with a stable environment for my family, I probably would have laughed.’

‘Looking back on it though, having a regular schedule really allowed me to improve upon my behaviour on stage as well as the interaction I undertook with the audience,’ he continues. ‘You never really stop finetuning your show and for the time we were in Las Vegas, not having to worry about travelling to the next show in another city, was a tremendous benefit.’

Gagnon’s show on Tuesday evening at Casino New Brunswick is a chronological run through the history of pop and rock music, dating back to the very origins of rock music itself.

With production by Quebec multimedia company Moment Factory, Gagnon says that the show’s visuals stay true to the era in which the songs being performed hail from. Gagnon’s show focuses almost equally upon each decade from the 1950s forward and includes performances by artists including Roy Orbison and the Rolling Stones through modern acts like Maroon 5 and Black-Eyed Peas.

‘The musical memory is something that is really strong in all of us. Hearing a song can instantly bring you back to a specific place or time in your life like almost nothing else can.

‘I believe the fact that we approach the show in a chronological manner helps provide a great deal of respect to those specific musical eras.’

Gagnon shares that delivering a show that is both historically accurate and faithful to the original artists is of utmost importance to Gagnon treats every show with the same respect that his audience is giving to him.

‘In this business, you really have to respect your audience and every night that I am on stage, I want to give the audience all that I can give them,’ he says. ‘There can be something inherently rewarding about delivering a good performance so I in turn want to make sure that my voice is in the best shape it can be when I take that stage. The fact that my audience has chosen to come see me when they have no shortage of options otherwise is very flattering to me and I in turn want to meet those expectations with flying colours.’

Article published in September 15, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript