Les Rats d’Swompe: high energy entertainment at St. Lawrence Stage

MORRISBURG –The exciting and exuberant concert by Les Rats d’Swompe made it very hard for the audience at Upper Canada Playhouse on Saturday, March 2, to remain seated. And that was just fine with Les Rats. As band member Brandon Girouard said in an earlier Leader interview,

“We love to be close to a live audience, to create something powerful.” That was definitely the case on Saturday night. This was a concert whose high energy and musical appeal had the crowd eager to “rat ‘n roll” throughout the evening.

Striking the perfect mood for Les Rats was very popular local musician Claude Plamondon. Joined on stage by the musical talents and the great harmonies of Claude Clement and Claude Champagne, Plamondon quickly established a warm rapport with the audience as he and his fellow artists opened the evening concert.

Blessed with rich musical and vocal styles, the trio’s selections ranged from a warm and folksy love song, to the rollicking ‘Fishing Today,’ to the plaintive and deeply emotional ‘A Song for Mom.’ The Three Claudes strongly connected with listeners. The crowd on Saturday responded to Plamondon’s sense of humour, the rich harmonies of his music, that warm sense he created for the audience of people comfortably gathered, perhaps around a kitchen table, just singing with old friends.

Claude Plamondon’s appeal is such, that whatever he had planned as the closing number in his set, the audience was not going to let him and Clement and Champagne leave the stage until they sang the beloved classic piece ‘Home.’ Many joined them for the chorus, “Home is where the heart is/It may skip and roam/But it’s never far from home.” This was a rich opening for a magical night.

That magic only grew when Yvan Leduc, Patrick Pharand, Martin Rocheleau, Brandon Girouard and Simon Joly – Les Rats d’Swompe – burst on to the stage. Clad in their trademark “plaid lumberjack shirts” their incredible energy and the level of sheer excitement they brought to their music won the audience from the first bars of their opening song.

Many of the audience were fluent French speakers. Others were not. It did not matter in the slightest.The passion and the sense of joy these musicians brought to every number translated to everyone. At times, Les Rats were literally dancing on the stage, and their pace and tempo never let up all evening.

Every member of the band is a skilled musician. While most vocals were led by guitarist Yvan, who has a strong, versatile voice, the other artists demonstrated their talents in an equally striking manner. Joly on the drums could switch beats and rhythms in a breath. Rocheleau and Girouard, bass and electric guitar, brought exciting songs, and every kind of emotion to the fore. Pharand and his extraordinary violin simply had the audience cheering.

The five seem to love what they do, love performing together, love making powerful connections with their audiences. In a number of their response pieces, the audience was invited to sing along on the choruses, which they did with great enthusiasm. Later, in a musical change of pace (“We’re slowing things down a little”), Les Rats delivered “a classic Neil Young song,” ‘Heart of Gold,’ then thrilled the crowd with their very unique interpretation of Johnny Cash’s 1955 ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’

Throughout the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage concert, it was very clear that these iconic, award-winning performers love every moment they are on the stage, and love sharing their music and truly Canadian heritage with audiences. Les Rats d’Swompe brought passion and exuberance to the stage: without a doubt, they raised the Playhouse roof – and we loved it.

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