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- Koko, Camden Town »
- Of Montreal »
Make as many scathing comparisons to Jake Shears as you like, there’s no escaping the fact that of Montreal are one of the most brilliantly, ridiculously over the top live acts around. A pair of dancing golden teletubbies heralded the start of the show, setting in motion a thrusting crescendo of drums beats and guitar squalls that climaxed in the explosion of pink fluff and glitter that is Kevin Barnes. Barnes, alongside Rufus Wainwright and Mika, is one of the Three Tenors of operatic-pop (Popera?!). Subtlety isn’t exactly going to be high on the agenda.
Recreating the seamless nature of their new album, Skeletal Lamping (see our review here) the band left few pauses for applause. Even so, from the Zeppelin like screams of opener 'Id Engager' through to their final encore, a hissy fit cover of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', the bottom floor of Koko was a writhing mess of gyrating hips and flailing arms. Little surprise really, the fact that Barnes can pull off lines like “I’m screaming out to you from the depths of this phallus-centric tyranny” with a straight face is a testament to how much they must’ve practiced to get their set this tight.
Live, the new album was lent an intensity it doesn’t quite achieve on its own. All cleanliness and refinement was dumped in favour of out-and-out crowd blasting; there was so much reverb laid on the vocals that at times it sounded like the Wizard of Oz was putting in a guest appearance. Brilliant as this is for tracks like 'In Our Elegant Caste' (surely the bi-sexual disco anthem of the year?), it was at the cost of those gentle lulls, moments of calm in the eye of the storm, that are so very precious during any gig. 'Touched Something’s Hollow', for example, lost all the vulnerability that makes it so wonderful, mutilating one of the new album’s prettiest songs into the weakest song of the night.
Seeing as Skeletal Lamping doesn’t officially come out for a couple of days it was understandable that only the older material really got punters going. 'Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse' (you know that "come on chemicals" one from Hissing Fauna) was, despite having been written about a period of almost suicidal depression, the most joyous song of the night. And that really is the brilliant thing about of Montreal, they make you dance whatever the song is about.
The stage show did sometimes rather distract from the music. At one point Barnes lay down to be de-robed by Mayan priests, and was reborn from naked floor foetus into an ass-shaking Adonis, replete in gold n’ purple loin cloth and covered from head to toe in red paint. When you realise all this was to illustrate the one lyric “make my whole body blush” you do begin to wonder if it’s really necessary. It is quite obvious that not far beneath this flamboyant exterior there lurks a deeply unhappy person.
Still, despite the showers of confetti and Aztec gods prancing to and fro, tonight was pretty tame in terms of previous theatrics. In New York a couple of weeks ago a virtually naked Barnes took to the stage astride a real live bubble gum pink pony looking every bit like Alan Carr’s favourite wet dream. With a few more dates left on the European tour, there’s hope yet of a reprise.
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