Of Montreal live at the Paradise, April 21
The Of Montreal show at the Paradise Tuesday night, the second of their two sold-out shows at that venue this week, wasn't just a concert — it was an interpretive dance performance, an assemblage of trippy video installations, an excuse to parade a multitude of animal-head masks across the stage, and one giant homage to Flaming Lips–style stage antics. Of Montreal's previous appearances in town, at Avalon and the Middle East downstairs, had merely hinted at their theatrical aptitude. At Avalon they'd incorporated video projections from the cover art for 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? At the Middle East, lead singer Kevin Barnes had donned a wedding dress and proposed to the audience.
This time, the Athens-based outfit brought along a hype man in a white tiger head and a team of ambiguous, unitarded dancers who transmorphed themselves with silver Buddha costumes, platinum-blond wigs, and plastic pig masks in a confusing series of skits. It was a spectacle, for sure, but it didn't always work to the band's advantage. At times, it felt like commotion meant to distract us from the weaker songs in the set, which consisted of tunes from Hissing Fauna and the band's most recent release, Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl), with a few staples peppered in between. "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" and "Forecast Fascist Future," both from 2005's The Sunlandic Twins, were highlights.
The challenge of incongruity is inevitable for Of Montreal, who've been moving through various line-ups and stylistic phases since 1997, always under the creative helm of Barnes. Over the years, he has shape-shifted their sound from wide-eyed twee to heavily synthesized glam-pop to emotional, experimental noise — though he always tosses in a sizable spoonful of disco funk. Phoenix contributor Mikael Wood has described Lamping as an album with a few exceptional tracks and a "good deal of filler." That turned out to be an apt description of the Paradise show. When a woman with geisha-like facepaint and a jumpsuit à la Missy Elliott perched at the front of the stage during "Labyrinthian Pomp," it was a little too much "too much."
The final encore was "The Party's Crashing Us Now," another Sunlandic track. It was a fitting note to go out on, especially as the band were burying the audience in a storm of white feathers.
: Live Reviews
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