Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The Spectacle That Is Of Montreal
Skeletal Lamping has been getting some bad press since being released on 21 October. Many critics have compared Skeletal Lamping to the worst selections from The Fiery Furnaces catalogue, which means that they think Skeletal Lamping is muddled and too schizophrenic to be enjoyed as an album. To an extent I can see where these critiques are coming from, Barnes does throw a lot at his listeners in each one of his songs. However, after seeing these songs performed live, I not only feel assured that Barnes knows exactly what he is doing, but also that he has made one of the more interesting and dense records of the year.
The show consisted mostly of new jams off of Skeletal Lamping with a few old songs of Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? thrown in as well, and the whole show played as a sort of avant garde type play. Although I hesitate to use avant garde because I think that is a phrase thrown around when people generally don't understand something and last night's theatrics were not confusing at all. In fact, the theatrics as well as the lighting and other visual images used throughout the show, made Skeletal Lamping's many thematic layers become almost decipherable, even understandable. The show was filled with multiple costume changes, several dancers or 'interpretists', a large ever changing centre stage piece and a number of short plays involving Barnes and the dancers. Each one of these changes was coupled with a very specific part of a song and were linked together in a way that made the songs seem more like a 'real' song, and less like a schizophrenic collage of interesting music. Upon first listen of Skeletal Lamping I knew that it was an album that was challenging the role of gender in art and life as well as a sort of vessel for multiple rebirths for Barnes and his band, but these themes only became more evident through the show last night. The gender theme was obvious, with Barnes wearing skimpy costumes and traditional women's wear throughout most of the show, as well a number of mini plays that seemed to question our understanding of gender and at once turn it on its head. Rebirth was portrayed throughout the show with the culmination coming when Barnes was hung at centre stage and soon reappeared in a new costume for a new song. I know this sounds cliched, but it was a powerful moment in the show, and it really got the theme of rebirth across to the audience in a way that a simple listen to the LP may never have.
I could go on for paragraphs about the visual stimulation of last night's show, but instead, I'll try to keep this show review under 1000 words and talk about the sound. The show was staged at the Queen Elizabeth's Theatre on the CNE grounds, which, yes, is a really weird place to have a show. The venue had seats, which thankfully no one used, and no beer was allowed in. You would think that this would make for an awkward concert experience at best, but whatever the venue lacked in convenience, it easily made up for in sound. The bass was loud and helped make each track even more danceable, and the vocals were clear and up front in the mix. The whole show just sounded absolutely fantastic, and each song was fully fleshed out with a large backing band that included two drummers, a keyboardist, two guitarists, a bass player
and Barnes, who also shredded some axe when needed.
The show was great, and I would say that it helped to push Skeletal Lamping into the running for my favourite record of the year. Who knows, that may be just the hangover of a great show talking, but for now I'm sticking to my story: Of Montreal and Skeletal Lamping are the motherfucking headliner, bitch.
Oh, and did I mention that they finished the show with an encore performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"?