Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Of Montreal at the Highline Ballroom 1/26/10

Of Montreal has reached a place in their performing career where each show is just a test to top the last one. Two years ago theatrical frontman Kevin Barnes rode a horse onstage at the Roseland. More recently he dressed in a centaur outfit and smeared himself with whipped cream at Santos Party House. What could top that at last night’s Highland Ballroom show, announced just a couple weeks ago?

Try Susan Sarandon spanking a pig.

The evening began after a highly competent pop set by OM drummer James Husband, when five performers in black unitards (the go-to outfit of the evening) and animal masks began to play. Well, "play" is a generous word -- try "make noise with instruments." Regardless, the faked-out crowd rapturously cheered Of Montreal’s arrival…that is until the real band arrived to kicked off the imposters.

Sanity-wise, it was all downhill from there. The unitard-clad sidekicks reappeared often throughout the night, doing handstands, flashing strobe lights, or hitting the band with cutouts of fish as the situation dictated (or didn’t). Glow sticks flew through the crowd here, chalk-covered Greek gods wearing tighty-whities posed with apples there. The band, clad in a wardrobe that can only be described as futurist-psychedelia, mugged against video backdrops of swirling neon circles and tigers morphing into bananas. It didn’t make sense, but with the band singing songs titled “
Heimsdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse” would you really expect it to?

The campy theatrics peaked during set-closing Morrissey “Everyday Is Like Sunday” when the band reenacted the crucifixion on a spinning wooden cross brought out solely for the occasion. Barnes played the role of half-naked RoboChrist dying for the crowd’s sins before being carried off by his masked (and, now, wigged) assistants. The stations of the cross haven’t carried such a heavy S&M undercurrent since
The Passion.

It seems remiss to review a show with no mention of the actual music, but an Of Montreal event (the word concert does not do the spectacle justice) is about what you see, not what you hear. Yes, the band performed their freak-pop with tight focus, treating a crowd of regulars to some back-catalogue chestnuts as well as a new song titled “Teenage Unicorn Fisting.” And yes, longtime favorites like “She's a Rejector” and “For Our Elegant Caste” got the rambunctious crowd jumping and crowd-surfing. But with a band singing lyrics like “I want you to be my pleasure puss,” sonic nuance is hardly the point.

Ironically, the music only too center-stage during the least technically proficient song of the evening. Solange Knowles (aka. BeyoncĂ©’s sister) is no stranger to the band, covering “Heat Wave” with them last year and appearing on their upcoming album, but this time the occasion was a gloriously sloppy cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

Now, about that pig-spanking. When a fight broke out between two man-pigs, who else but Susan Sarandon could bring peace? Sitting on a crouched Barnes, she bent one of the pigs over a knee to gave it the business end of her ruler (video here). Her presence was never explained, but it didn’t really need to be. After all, this is the woman who had sex with a robot in
Rocky Horror Picture Show. So if she wants to explore some onstage school-marm bestiality onstage, let her. At an Of Montreal show, it’s best not to ask questions.

Suffer For Fashion
Forecast Fascist Future
Du Og Meg
Lysergic Bliss
Disconnect The Dots
Spike The Senses
And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow
Plastis Wafers
St. Exquisite’s Confessions
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
Teenage Unicorn Fisting
An Eluardian Instance
Oslo In The Summertime
Everyday Feels Like Sunday (Morrissey cover)
A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger
She’s a Rejecter
[encore break]
For Our Elegant Caste
I Want You Back (Jackson Five cover)


Photo #1 &#2 by Josh Silk (via SPIN), Photo #3 by Joe Parker (via Flickr).

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