Standing Under Bright Lights takes place approximately 6 months after the release of Alex Henry Foster’s phenomenal first solo album Windows in the Sky, that not only debuted at number 3 on the Canadian top 200, right behind Imagine Dragons and Muse, but that also stayed on the top 40 for a year after its initial release, scoring a nomination for best album of the year in Canada while being internationally acclaimed and added to several best albums shortlists all over the world.
Windows in the Sky’s critical and mass success would once again propel Foster to the forefront of the Canadian music scene, where he stood for about a decade as the lead singer for alternative rock band Your Favorite Enemies before going on hiatus the moment he left for Tangier to mourn his passed father. This grieving period, which would last 2 years, became a journey to the end of his sorrowful desperation and is what would ultimately inspire and give life to his first solo record, immediately recognized as the likes of Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, Mogwai, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Having systematically denied any form of touring or public event in order to preserve the intimate nature of his songs at their purest state, the vice-president of the prestigious Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Laurent Saulnier, nonetheless persistently asked Foster to join the program of the 40th anniversary of the festival as one of the indoor main features. After repeated inquiries, Alex finally accepted the invitation, to the only conditions that he would have absolute control of the production and carte blanche regarding the promotion – which they were pleased to agree to.
The concert was to be a one-off happening, a homage to Foster’s late father, who had died almost 5 years prior, almost to the day of the event. It would consist of the entire album Windows in the Sky, re-invented for the occasion as an 11-piece band set to perform along a movie projection produced by Foster. Also based on Foster’s vision, award-winning light engineer Pascal Boily created a unique scenic installation, offering an immersive universe where music, movie projections, and light co-existed. Alex wanted for the public to be invited to dwell on the moment rather than have the sensation of attending a concert.
After publicly announcing that his performance would be the sole performance he would do, along with the rumors regarding what would be a unique stage production, the concert became one of the very few sold-out representations the festival had over the years, prompting the international press to cover the concert and fans from Japan, Germany, UK, France, and the US to travel to Montreal for the occasion, which became the most sought-after event of the summer in Montreal.
Ignoring the increasing pressure and out-of-proportion expectations that such a hype typically creates, Foster and his 10-musician band would completely eclipse any of this high anticipation. Their set, almost 2 hours and 30 minutes, is now considered amongst the best concerts throughout the 40 years of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and has been mentioned as one of the best presentation overall that year. But more importantly, to Alex, the immersive experience he had invited the audience to let go into had been so singularly successful that it set a new standard in the fan experience engagement.
In fact, the concert’s tremendous emotional involvement took such an unprecedented uplifting proportion for Foster that it had him reconsider his position regarding his apprehension for the songs to lose their soulful meaning and intimate nature if played too many times:
“My vision to preserve the integrity of the songs from being played over and over was a son’s ultimate attempt to keep a part of his father alive. But that night, I realized that it’s once communed that every word and sound has the ability to grow beyond the emotions they were created from, making them somehow eternal… just like my father. Therefore, the sole concern that now remains is how willing I am to face the fear to be left alone night after night when I let go of him, when I don’t have any more reasons not to assume who I am now, to stand under bright lights, whatever it may reveal to myself and others.”
Originally set to be released on October 8th of 2020, which would have been his father’s birthday, Foster decided to utilize the extra time the worldwide pandemic would give him to produce the album “Standing Under Bright Lights” featuring the never-released song “The Son of Hannah” with Ben Lemelin, his longtime creative partner and co-producer on “Windows in the Sky”. He also decided to work on the concert film and on an upcoming book titled “If Only the Voices In My Head Couldn’t Lie”, to be released later in 2021.