of Montreal House of Blues November 14, 2008
Better Than: Damn near every other concert that comes to my mind that didn’t involve eating a handful of mushrooms while watching Tripping Daisy at Starplex.
With sequins, glitter, confetti, feathers and body paint, the glam was heavy in the air last night as of Montreal took the stage at the House of Blues.
But as the band members took their positions around the stage and started playing, frontman Kevin Barnes was noticeably absent. In the center of the stage, four dancers dressed as golden Buddhas were huddled around a giant gold construction that looked like the Ark of Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Honestly, I don’t think anybody was too surprised when Barnes burst out from the box and started strutting around the stage with mic in hand for the first number.
As the band segued into the next song, the dancers stripped out of their Buddha costumes and the stage was taken over by acrobatic ninjas.
I knew ahead of time that show was to be guided by Barnes' alternate personality, Georgie Fruit, “a black man who has been through multiple sex changes,” and I’d wondered if all that stage pomp would distracted from the band’s music.
But it didn’t. Not one bit.
The choreographed dance numbers and complex set changes were mostly reserved for the new songs off Skeletal Lamping--and the routines did nothing but add to the flamboyant delivery of songs. And I don’t think you could--or should--separate the two.
Barnes Fruit sang “St. Excuisite’s Confessions” dressed in Papal robes with a naughty nun at his feet. In another number, he was dressed as a prancing, dancing centaur. And knowing he had contemplated suicide, it was kinda surreal to watch as he sang one song hanging from gallows with a noose around his neck.
But, again, somehow, stage antics weren’t a distraction as the band’s performance was still the heart of the show, and the audience went wild when the band played the opening chords of “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethian Curse” the band’s first single off Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
And as much as the fans were into the older songs, they went just as wild for songs off Skeletal Lamping, the band’s ninth studio album, jumping and singing along when Fruit sang the line “Guess I should be happy for your success and all that” from “Triphallus, To Puncuate!”. Skeletal Lamping was released less than a month ago, and I know some of the album leaked a little early on the ol’ interweb, but I was surprised at how many people were singing along with all the new songs.
One of the highlights of the night came as Fruit sat down at a piano and crooned, "Why am I so damaged, girl? / Why am I such poisoned goods?” from the half-song “Touched Something’s Hollow”. At times, Fruit…OK, OK, Barnes jumped, posed and strutted around the stage and I wanted to compare him to David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust--but then I realized that, as a performer, Barnes transcends those comparisons.
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He, or the character that he’s adopted, is all his own.
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: It’s hard to write anything resembling an objective review when a show is so fucking good. This was my first time to see of Montreal live, and the show was spectacular—they are kinda like a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for the Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs generation. The band even performed "Instant Karma", and it was awesome and the whole crowd sang along. After the house lights went up, I overheard several people saying that the show was better than when they played Dallas this time last year. And I heard several other people saying it was the best concert they’d ever seen.
Random Note: Before the show, I had balked at the $30 ticket price. But it was totally worth the price. And I figure that seeing them beats the hell out of going all the way to Vegas for that much entertainment.
By The Way: The crowd at House of Blues was a bit older than I’d expected and a little less glam than I’d hoped (although there were a few indie kids painted up like Indians with face paint and feathers.) --Daniel Rodrigue