When Canadian rockers Harlequin started winding down operations in the late ’80s following a string of successful studio albums, lead singer George Belanger chose to step forward to keep the group’s name alive.
“We all had young families then and travelling was really a problem for everyone,” Belanger said.
“To be away from your family for eight months of the year is very taxing so at that moment in time I really had to think hard and the thing I thought about the most was, how do you throw something away that you love so much?”
When George Belanger was young, his father would walk around the house singing and playing music by artists like Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald. Even though those singers were years past their prime, they continued recording and performing and remained a part of the elder Belanger’s inner soundtrack.
“I thought, well, why shouldn’t my generation be any different? We grew up with a soundtrack and I think we’ll continue with that soundtrack for as long as we live,” Belanger said.
“So I thought, well, I’ll just continue because no matter what the record company tells me about demographics and things changing, I think there will always be classic rock because when you grow up with classic rock or whatever genre, certainly you broaden your horizons, you find newer things to love, but you don’t throw away the stuff that you really love.”
Belanger continued with Harlequin touring with a changing lineup when he felt like it, free from the anxiety of having people “breathing down my neck, cracking the whip and telling me what to do.” In 2007 the band released its first album in more than 20 years, the aptly titled Waking the Jester.
On Feb. 24 Harlequin is coming to the Port Theatre. It’s the group’s first West Coast appearance since performing at the Rock Ambleside Park 2017 festival in August with fellow Canadian classic rock acts the Stampeders and Platinum Blonde.
Now Belanger said he’s seeing fans bring their children and grandchildren to Harlequin concerts, which makes him reflect on the role he’s had in so many people’s lives.
“You don’t realize how much you’ve affected people and I honour that now because I know how other bands affected me and now I think back, ‘Well, why should it be any different?'” he said.
“I respected the Beatles because they were great writers and innovative and it was the soundtrack of my childhood and I always admired those artists and I guess people are doing the same thing with me, but on a smaller scale for sure. But it’s the same type of thing.”
WHAT’S ON … Harlequin performs at the Port Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. All seats $55.