of Montreal – Koko – 4/25/12
Koko (London, UK)
April 25, 2012
For the last half-decade or so, Kevin Barnes performed under the guise of his freaky, funky alter-ego Georgie Fruit. And as Barnes explored his persona, the of Montreal stage show became an increasingly visual spectacle. Hallucinogenic projections; elaborate, handmade costumes and even a few (frequently sexual) skits in between and during songs—anything and everything seemed to happen all at once, and it made the group one of the most unique live acts around. The thing is, though, Barnes recently abandoned Fruit in favor of performing his personal new album, Paralytic Stalks, as himself. So would all this psychedelic splendor disappear along with Georgie? Not by a long shot.
As their show last night at Camden’s Koko proved, of Montreal hardly know the meaning of “dial it back.” Indeed, the concert was a thoroughly diverting experience, a full-on audio/visual overload. Granted, compared to the past few tours, they reigned it in here a tad. But that’s only to say that the dancers changed costumes about five times instead of ten. Plus, whereas Barnes usually participates more with the dancers on stage, here he and the band often stayed put, focusing on the music and the crowd, letting the surreal stunts serve as decoration for the songs.
But what decorations they were. Aside from David Barnes’ colorful artwork projecting over the entire band, the anonymous dancers, who are often dressed in full-body black suits, began by running in with groups of white balloons and releasing them into the crowd. (The balloons, I think, lasted way longer than they were supposed to: Maybe 40 minutes in, the crowd’s playful taps turned into annoyed slaps just to get the thing the hell away.) Later on, during the visceral “She’s A Rejecter,” they returned as luchadores and dove off the stage into the ecstatic fans below. Perhaps the most memorable dress change, though, was when the two dancers sauntered around next to K Ishibashi before throwing off their cloaks to reveal large, pillowy breasts affixed to their costumes. But they weren’t the only ones having kinky fun. To prove that you can take the Kevin Barnes out of the Georgie Fruit, but you can’t take the Fruit out of the Barnes, Kevin slowly (read: sensually) undid and removed his frilly, crimson shirt, much to the delight of a swooning audience.
Though any discussion of an of Montreal show invariably focuses on the visual aspect, what is perhaps even more impressive is the music itself. Given how fluid the band’s lineup is—other than Barnes, only Dottie Alexander and Bryan Poole have been relative constants—it’s remarkable how tightly rehearsed and performed the music is, especially given the mercurial shifts of sound and style during the course of the average song. Both the opening numbers, “Gelid Ascent” and “Spiteful Intervention,” are rife with jittery drum fills, snippets of noise and layers of effects, yet they recreated them faithfully on stage. Ironically, for a tour supporting Paralytic Stalks, many of the set’s songs were culled from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and Skeletal Lamping. But they took advantage of the largely orchestral instrumentation of Stalks, introducing new dynamics into older songs such as when Zac Colwell blasted the first sexy-smooth riffs of “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” on a saxophone rather than a guitar.
Still, arguably the highlight of the night was the droning rant “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal,” a slow-building confessional that eventually exploded into a noisy jam, sending the crowd into a tizzy, not least because Poole launched into the crowd from atop an amp. If the group’s last record—or should I say Barnes’ last record—could sometimes come across as self-consciously cerebral, of Montreal know that having fun at their gigs is the bottom line. And when the band burned through their encore, I don’t think there was a single crowd member there that wasn’t on their feet, reaching out for the confetti that shot through the air. (Oh yeah, the dancers did that too.)
Forecast Fascist Future
You Do Mutilate?
St. Exquisite’s Confessions
We Will Commit Wolf Murder
She’s A Rejecter
Nonpareil Of Favor
Suffer For Fashion
Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse
The Past Is A Grotesque Animal
Authentic Pyrrhic Remission [Outro]
Women’s Studies Victims
A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger