A July 20 Paul McCartney concert held in Montreal during the 400th anniversary of Quebec City left a group of separatists shaking their heads over the festival’s British invasion.
The celebration, which commemorates the Quebec peoples’ struggle for sovereignty, wasn’t the place for McCartney’s music, members of the group told the National Post, as his presence would evoke memories of the British takeover of New France in 1760.
Quebec artist Luc Archambault went so far as to write a letter renouncing the performance that he planned to present to the former Beatle before he took the stage.
"The presence of your English-language music on the most majestic part of Battlefields Park, as beautiful as it might be, can’t help but bring back painful memories of our conquest," Archambault wrote.
The letter was endorsed by nationalist politicians Pierre Curzi and Daniel Turp, who also voiced concerns about the choice of the English artist.
"I really like Paul McCartney, but in this context, this is the last straw," Curzi told the National Post. "There is a clear Canadianization of the 400th celebrations. It is becoming a political gesture that tarnishes his presence."
McCartney downplayed the controversy in an interview with CBC Radio Canada prior to the show.
"I think it’s time to, you know, smoke the pipes of peace and to just put away your hatchets," he said. "I think it’s a show of friendship."
And it appeared that fans agreed when reportedly as many as 200,000 people turned up for the concert on the city’s Plains of Abraham.
McCartney used both French and English to address the crowd and the setlist included, unsurprisingly, "Michelle," according to the Montreal Gazette.
"[The controversy] is obviously stupid," one concertgoer told the paper. "Whether it’s French or English, it’s great to have an artist of this stature in Quebec."