*Note: the video above is not from Of Montreal's show at the Granada, but from their show in Austin the night before.
I have seen of Montreal perform live so many times that I no longer compare their shows with other concerts I've seen and have begun, instead, comparing them with themselves. So what was different this time around?
To me the biggest change in the band's sound lied in their decision to move towards more live playing. Since January the band have ceased using drum machines or playing to the computerized backing tracks that have characterized their live shows since 2004. This is just fine with guitarist Brian Poole, who shared with the Observer this week his feelings about not having much creative input in the group's songwriting process. Their ditching of prerecorded music in the live show has given Poole and the rest of the band's musicians a chance a little creativity in creating new arrangements that can be pulled off by a live band.
"We feel more like a real band now," Poole says, "I know Kevin just wants us to be a band that can express itself in a lot of different contexts rather than getting locked into the same thing. There are spaces for our expression now, room for the rest of us to put our imprint on the music."
But it was curious to me that Barnes and Co. would attempt this feat with fewer musicians than they've been playing with recently --namely the absence of multi-instrumentalist Jamie Huggins, who is typically responsible for adding keyboard, drums, trumpets, and bass to the group's often complex sonic textures. Most of the tracks from Satanic Panic in the Attic and Sunlandic Twins have two separate bass lines, and Huggins' absence meant many of those songs were notably absent from the set as well.
The songs from False Priest, (tentatively due out in Sept.) were also written and conceived with the idea that they could be performed without the aid of backing tracks. The band previewed one of these new tracks last night,
Another difference from when I saw the band at House of Blues the last time they were in town was the makeup of the crowd. Not to say the audience was more exclusive, but physically the building is a bit smaller, and is perhaps a reason that the crowd didn't seem to contain as many bandwagoner fans who refused to dance. I also applauded the idea of coming right of the gate and playing "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" two songs into the set to thwart all the drunken requests for 'the Outback song' that marred the HOB show.
While there were plenty of theatrics, hired actors, and four huge screens of visuals, this was the first time I've seen the group that didn't include at least one Kevin Barnes costume change. To tell the truth, this bothered me much less than I thought it would. It bothered me much less, for instance, than the fact that the night wasn't closed out with one of their legendary magical cover songs, like their version of The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" that they've been throwing down as of late.
But really these are just small perturbances from an obsessive of Montreal junkie. The group really did dazzle last night, and appeared to have loads of fun doing so. And most importantly the packed, eager to dance, house loved every minute of it.