In concert, Wolf Parade operate in a mode that is or ought to be the Platonic ideal for a rock show: their live renditions of studio tracks are simultaneously faithful, timed to metronomic precision, and — when the occasion calls for it — beautifully unhinged. (I'll skip my rant about openers the Moools, from Japan, because it's not PC in the slightest.)
The headliners, led by Spencer Krug (keys) and Dan Boeckner (guitar), were on point from "Soldier's Grin," the first song from 2008's At Mount Zoomer, through the last, "Kissing the Beehive," that album's climax. The pair, alternating songs, are a brilliant yin and yang: Krug more mannered in appearance but more offbeat and dramatic in his delivery, seated at his jauntily menacing synth; Boeckner dressed in punk/heroin-chic tank top and bad haircut, equipped with anthem after concise anthem to counterweight Krug's fetish for sprawling song structures and mythological references.
The show redeemed, in part, the band's relatively lackluster new album, Expo 86, which is dragged down by uncharacteristically lukewarm lyrics and a bored rhythm section, stuck on rote disco beats. Krug's "What Did My Lover Say" and nearly every Boeckner song came off with some added violence, thanks to Boeckner's guitar, firing riffs like cluster bombs.
But it's still the songs from the band's 2005 debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, that brim with rapture: the defeated/sarcastic "la la la"s punctuating "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts," as generationally-appropriate a duel between apathy and desperate hunger as I can think of; or "I'll Believe in Anything," a song whose first 30 seconds always underwhelms on stage and then spends the next four minutes climaxing over and over again, its title and its qualification ("If I could take the fire out from the water") eerily resonant as ever. The yin and the yang ended fittingly with their lone duet, 10 blisteringly loud minutes of "Kissing the Beehive," managing to sound their best: raw, somehow coherent, unlike anyone but themselves.