The circular amphitheatre, used in other circumstances by a circus school, was bathed in red light. A muscular DJ spun pounding dance music, the heavy bass shaking the floor. In the audience, signs and thundersticks waved approximately to the beat.
After a few warm-up acts, Justin Trudeau bounded on stage, vibrating with apparent enthusiasm. He wore a suit jacket, but no tie, the top two buttons of his dress shirt undone. He and a cohost proceeded then to introduce the party’s Montreal team, Mr. Trudeau announcing each arrival as if introducing the starting line-up of the ’76 Habs.
On defence, the bespectacled one, Francisss Scarrr-pa-leggia! At left wing, in the tweed coat, Irwinnnn Cot-ler! Each descended the stairs from the top of the crowd. Each of the men wore the same look: suit jacket, no tie, top button of dress shirt undone. The lone candidate in a tie promptly removed his upon arriving on stage.
Finally, the captain, Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader appearing in a pink shirt, his wife by his side.
He took the stage hand in hand with Zsuzsanna Zsohar and then accepted an enthusiastic hug from Mr. Trudeau. He shook hands with several of his team and then turned to the crowd. “Mi! Chael! Mi! Chael!” they chanted. Looking up into the lights he mouthed the word “woah.”
In French and then in English he told the thousand-strong who they were. “You are proud Quebecers,” he said. “Yes,” they said back. “You are proud Canadians,” he said. “Yes!” they said back. “You are proud Liberals,” he said. “YES!” they said back. This was a revival meeting now. “And I am proud to be your leader,” he enthused.
He proceeded to the indictment of la regime Harper. “Boo!” they called at each new charge.
He pivoted to the Liberal plea. He looked up into the lights and they chanted the name his parents gave him. He spoke without a podium, without notes, without a teleprompter, just a microphone in his hand. Every so often he spread his legs shoulder width apart and bent at the knees and seemed very nearly to straddle the stage.
He talked about that 13-year-old kid in Winnipeg. “I’m in politics to give that kid hope,” he said. “We’ll stick with you through the thick and thin,” he yelled to that kid over the crowd’s applause. “We’ll be with you the whole way.”
He finished with a call to arms, to unity and victory and then his theme song blared again. He spread his arms wide and bowed as the crowd cheered and then he leaned forward to shake hands with the young people surrounding the stage. Down off the stage he waded into the crowd, shaking hands on either side. Then back up the stairs, more handshakes and a thumbs up and then out of sight.