Better than: A parade with two grand marshals, or a wolf pack with two alpha dogs.
Wolf Parade’s live show emphasized the equal importance shared by the band’s two creative minds, switching between Spencer Krug’s oddball synth-driven melodrama and Dan Boeckner’s more accessible guitar rock almost song for song. Rare is the two-headed band with such immediately identifiable songwriters that manages to keep one from overshadowing the other. What’s even more unusual is that neither seemed to be an obvious favorite of last night’s crowd. “Spencer or Dan?” is the indie-rock “John or Paul?” of the oughts, except nowadays there is no correct answer.
But as for which album is better, 2005’s Apologies to Queen Mary or the just-released At Mount Zoomer? That one is a bit easier to answer, and I think even the band would agree that Apologies resonated with listeners a bit more than this year’s effort. (Then again, it took a few listens to Apologies before I could get past the Modest Mouse comparisons and hear the brilliance of the band’s spastic, herky-jerky songs; hopefully Zoomer will likewise grow on me.) Though the night was heavy on the new material, they opened with Apologies’ first track, “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son,” followed by “Dear Sons And Daughters of Hungry Ghosts,” and sent the audience into a frenzy during the encore with three older songs.
Unlike many shows, which start and finish strong but tend to lull toward the middle, the band seemed and audience seemed to become more energized as the night went on. Live, songs from Zoomer benefited from grittier, grimier and more propulsive performances than are captured on the disc. Boeckner’s and Dante DeCaro’s cranked-up guitars and Krug’s and Hadji Bakara’s overdriven synths and keyboards added vitality to the new songs. However, the loud cheers for the opening riff of “Grounds For Divorce” about a half dozen songs into the set drove home the point that Queen Mary ruled over Mount Zoomer, as far as the loyal subjects in the crowd were concerned.
The band closed their first performance in Dallas with an epic version of the 10-minute “Kissing A Beehive,” segueing into “It’s A Curse,” with Krug and Boeckner switching verses, an appropriate way to end the first set.
But the undeniable highlight was the second of the encore’s three songs, an absolutely awe-inspiring, goosebump-raising version of “I’ll Believe In Anything;” the giddy audience couldn’t help but sing along with the “Nobody knows you, and nobody gives a damn” chorus. They could have ended it right then, but instead closed with the twisting, rollicking “Fancy Claps.” -Jesse Hughey
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: If I were faced with a Sophie’s Choice, I’d have to go with Spencer. By The Way: Krug’s Sunset Rubdown plays The Granada on September 29. Tickets go on sale today at noon. Random Note: “Is it true that Dallas is the birthplace of G.G. Allin?” Boeckner asked at one point. It is not. Maybe he was thinking of Gibby Haynes.