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The key-lines of the whole Wolf Parade gig come during the second movement of (11-minute epic) 'Kissing the Beehive' played just before the encore: "You held your cock in the air / and you called it a guitar / you pressed your face to the glass and you called it good cinema..."
Hell knows what (co-vocalist) Spencer Krug means by this. But isn’t that THE FEAR - that all live-music, however powerful, is only a simulacrum of the real experience? (like seeing an actual pack of wolves in front of you, in some distant race-memory we’re trying to recover, with all these snarling guitars and galloping rhythms); that the person onstage might only be gesturing toward something ultimately empty, as they spank their plank. We in the audience have some investment in them feeling more alive, and feeling our collective adoration, but what if they’re only getting off on the thought of said adoration for something that they secretly know is a trick, and suspect the audience know, too?
Having nabbed the Arcade Fire support slot when they went stellar, scored a Pitchfork Top 10 album with their own debut, blown that away with the new one, and (tonight) changed venue due to demand, Wolf Parade are entering territory occupied by the likes of Modest Mouse, and someday Radiohead or The Cure... some of whose own most devastating songs are basically about shouting down that inner voice, even when you're headlining festivals, or filling a stadium. (It's the arena-filling mid-80s incarnation of the latter they sound more like, by the way, with heavily modulated stabbing keyboard parts over slashes of guitar.) Thing is, tonight, Wolf Parade play one of the handful of gigs this writer has ever been part of (not "watched", mind) that completely banished all such thoughts, in an hour-long orgy of jittering, then stomping, then dancing, then full-on "hands in the sky" yelling (as Dan's lyric have it). We’re not their audience – we’re their chorus (in the Greek tragedy sense) and if you'll excuse the etymologizing: that means we sing and we dance, we’re many and we’re one.
To be honest, there's not much to say about the presentation – the banter is minimal (Dan: "I just worked out how to play that song by the Ting Tings..."; Spencer: "we’re not playing it."). The crowd are sufficiently over-awed not to produce a single obnoxious heckler, and I like the way the friends of the one stroppy guy near me lean in close to his ears and chorus "ba-baba-ba!" until he lightens up. Onstage, both singers oscillate wildly, as if actually pogo-ing or throwing any shapes would take too long; vocals are spat out fast in frantic rhythms, with few notes held. Plus, the Ballroom is a great venue and, with a lot of smoke and backlights, many of the best moments are played against a billowing orange-red that looks like the band are poised on the brink of the abyss, or in the jaws of Hell. Some clichés are clichés because they’re true, right?
The fact that the albums work so well as single pieces is underscored by the way the set begins with the opener from Apologies, then three early tracks from At Mt Zoomer and the last two songs before the encore are closers 'Hearts on Fire' and 'Kissing the Beehive'. Very little is missed out. Any sense (on record) that some of the songs are fragmentary is entirely dispelled – most are sped up and more urgent in their live form, but never at the expense of the lyrics' delivery, which makes most of Spencer’s songs just as danceable, even if the keyboard lines are characteristically quirkier. In fact, several of his songs get applause at the opening notes, anticipating an "ah-wuh-uh-ooh-ooh!" to join in on.
Finally, special mention to Chad VanGaalen, best known for recording and being backed by new buzz-band, Women: he's similarly energetic, whilst rooted to the spot, like a spring quivering. There's a hint of New Order-just-breaking-away-from-Joy Division in his songs, and the cover of 'Golden Hours' from Eno’s Another Green World is that most astonishing of feats: a version of The Peacock-Feathered One that improves on the original, with a rocking beat, and a note-perfect Fripp solo that’s a glimpse of something celestial or otherworldly, above. Few people could have opened for Wolf Parade tonight.
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