Of Montreal at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Opening act: Kishi Bashi and Lonely Dear.
Gelid Ascent, Spiteful Intervention, Requiem for O.M.M.,Forecast Fascist Future, St. Exquisite’s Confessions, Famine Affair, You Do Mutilate?, Dour Percentage, We Will Commit Wolf Murder, She’s a Rejector, No Conclusion, Nonpareil of Favor, Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,Authentic Pyrrhic Remission. Encore: Gallery Piece, Women’s Studies Victims, Id Engager, Gronlandic Edit, A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger
In the recent issue of Under The Radar magazine of Montreal frontman (and one-man band) Kevin Barnes explained that, “..what I’m really interested in and excited about is being onstage and not feeling any pressure to keep momentum going. I just want to be onstage and play my songs in a beautiful, powerful, poignant way not feel obligated to make people jump and down and cheer and throw glitter in the air. Because I’ve already done that, and it was really fun….but I’m in a different place now“. Well quite frankly, of Montreal’s opener of the night, ‘Gelid Ascent’, made me a believer of what he proclaimed at least for 5 minutes. Sitting at the keyboard and singing with his eyes fixed on the crowd, the lyrical centerpiece of ‘Ascent’ is Barnes almost begging “You speak to me, like the anguish of a child doused in flames”. I saw it as Barnes way of telling us, hey, I know I’ve been struggling, and I know I’ve disappointed you at times, but here I am. This is the new me. Let’s take things a little slower. Listen to me. Trust me.
But as with most big changes, things take time, and the next 75 minutes of the thrilling Of Montreal performance in a 95% packed First Avenue showed us Mr. Barnes hasn’t exactly gone full circle – at least not yet. Layers of make-up, costumes, balloons, confetti, body-surfing ghosts in leotards were just some of the props squeezed into the of Montreal setlist. Oh, how easy it is to forget those first five minutes. Barnes was in top form in front of gyrating, bouncy fans dying to mimic his every move and thrilled that he brought out his old catalog to play. The other seven (?) musicians onstage were mere props – but props that know their chops. A tightness from a band that reminded me of the command that Prince has on his live band, and Barnes is a true stage leader – never once relinquishing control of the spotlight. He knows we came to see him. And he obliged. There wasn’t a single lull in momentum to be found as Barnes ruled the night with almost uncomfortable ease. And I say uncomfortable because for me it felt like it almost comes too easy for him now – that frenetic party pace. Like those opening five introspective minutes were his big stretch for the night, and once that was gone and out of the way it was time to fade back to the party that is Of Montreal. If you can sidestep the scrabble-happy titles of all the songs you’re left with a dazzling, eclectic, prolific songwriter and musician. But the uniqueness that is Barnes is his calling card and also his own breaking point. Eleven LP’s in 15 years plus a handful of EP’s is enormously generous
output. But what we saw at First Avenue was Barnes and of Montreal at the peak of their powers, still – and he appears poised to remain there for several more, surely. I never sensed a lull in his abilities, just a concern that he’s become too good at being him. I’ll be shocked, given how clever and smart he is, if the next time we see or hear from him won’t be something entirely different. He’s due for that and so are we.