Of Montreal

Monday, 29 January 2007

Sometimes a band has to contend with fatigue or sickness or even technical difficulties during a show that might contribute to a particular performance. Of Montreal’s lead singer/guitarist and androgyny aficionado, Kevin Barnes, apologized for a slow start, saying, “I took too much last night and sometimes you have to balance it out,” as well as admitting they were “crowd surfing at a Shiny Toy Guns show at Sundance” the night before. Being the first night of a grueling 49-date tour, the sold-out El Rey crowd must expect a slow start to shake away some cobwebs. But the forces of evil Of Montreal had to deal with most was the 3 hours prior to them going on—perhaps some of the most offensive and monotonous opening acts ever to perform live. You can do the research and see what band and DJ I’m referring to, but it was like musical kryptonite that really didn’t help the “slow start.” The performance was good, but it’s like your favorite comedian following 3 hours of Bobcat Goldthwait. Of Montreal did what they could considering the circumstances.

The curtain is finally drawn, revealing three screens, a drum set, amps and a few standing synths. The outside screens donned an animated version of the album art from their newest record, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? while the center screen remained white and backlit so each band member could be revealed like they’re on Project Runway. It’s hard to really explain what they were all wearing. Barnes was shirtless and had on a pair of the tightest shiny silver low-rise pants that would make Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger nod in approval. Bassist Matt Dawson was sporting a Russian “Cossack” hat, Drummer/keyboardist Jamey Huggins had on some seriously sexy Napoleon-esque military garb, and then keyboardist Dottie Alexander just kinda looked like an 80s chick. It was interesting to say the least. But after what we all had to deal with, it was a nice shift for a sad and lifeless soul.

Once all onstage, the first two songs were off the new record, “Faberge Falls for Shuggie” and “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger,” which are both quite difficult choices to start with considering how adventurous Barnes is with his vocal melodies. Teamed up with guitarist Bryan Poole, the harmonies were tight and cool, with falsetto pitches that should’ve been cracking tumblers left and right—and graciously angering Beck at the same time. Barnes picked up a guitar for song three and regained some of his masculinity, and then they kindly dove into their back catalogue for a few songs before he headed off for wardrobe change number two of three.

Of all the newest tracks, “Cato as a Pun” was definitely their strongest song of the evening. It’s one of the cloudier songs off Destroyer, which Barnes says he wrote during a real “dark period” in his life. It shows up on most of the album, but it’s hidden inside, because upon your first few listens it’s just a poppy, super fun and sparkling record until you hear things like, “I'm in a crisis, I need help. Come on, mood, shift, shift back to good again, come on be a friend!” Dark pop is a great genre because it adapts to whatever mood you’re in. If you’re happy, just listen to the music. If you’re sad, listen to the lyrics. And being able to pull this off automatically makes Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? the best album of 2007 thus far. It’s intellectual and simple, and morose and joyful, which were all quite apparent live during “Bunny Ain’t No Kind Of Rider.” “Gronlandic Edit” and “She’s a Rejector.”

Overall, considering they were the last leg of a 4 x 200 relay where the first three runners couldn’t even qualify for the Special Olympics, the show was phenomenal—once everyone was able to shake off the first few hours of the evening, of course. In comparison, Of Montreal sounded like the greatest band ever to grace a stage, but that’s like comparing a Ferrari to a wheelchair. However, judging from the bands they have slotted to accompany them throughout this tour, like Loney, Dear, Enon and Mixel Pixel, there should be some really good nights, but you might want to come as late as humanly possible to the Sacramento and Tucson shows.

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