Live review: of Montreal at The Art School, 18/2/14

IMG_8101There’s not an ounce of pretension as American freak-rockers of Montreal unfurl cables and plug in guitars before their hour and half long Art School set.

They briefly depart the stage and the lights drop before they file onstage once more and take their positions and initially you’re almost underwhelmed.

Sure, they might be wearing Stetsons and flowery headbands but on the brightly lit stage they’re human, cracking jokes and flirting with the audience, not the otherworldly aliens you might expect of a group renowned as much for their psychedelic sense of humour as their tunes.

Just as you fear the magic spell might not take hold however, frontman Kevin Barnes lurches on stage.

Clad in white jeans and a green and gold poncho, his rake thin frame, floppy hipster fringe and impressive boots mark him out as either the unapologetic heir to Bowie or a slightly emo Jim Carrey, either way, he’s a born superstar.

As an introduction to the new Art School venue of Montreal is a good one and the assembly hall succeeds in impressing with warm, clear sound and vivid, hallucinogenic visuals projected onto a sizeable screen behind the band members.

Predictably material from 2012’s excellent Lousy with Sylvianbriar makes up much of the set, particularly in a danceable opening third that plays to all of Montreal’s strengths – strutting funk, wonky pop and syncopated rhythms cribbed from the very best disco cuts.

The energetic Barnes allows audience members to catch a breather with ‘Obsidian Currents’ and the suicide themed ‘Colossus’, paired with spooky underwater imagery, but the real highlights are the more upbeat tracks.


Though their music touches on funk, glam, rock and psychedelia, live of Montreal are a pop band at heart delivering the sort of irresistible dance grooves that appeal as much to the feet as to the head.

One steamy funk jam sees Barnes strip shirtless and hump an audience member, before departing the stage, only to return dressed in a sparkly blue jacket, leggings and matching cowboy boots.

For those who prefer to see pop brevity twisted inside out however, the gigs’ undoubted highpoint is still to come.

Ripped from 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, the Bowie gone Krautrock ‘The Past is A Grotesque Animal’ is treated to a venomous rewiring, spewing twelve minutes of electrical overload, fierce strobes and explosive guitar workouts through The Art School sound system as the lighting rigs bathe the band in swirls and squiggles of writhing light.

Openhearted, danceable yet nevertheless capable of surprising, of Montreal are welcome back anytime.

More photos

Words: Max Sefton
Photos: Federico Plantera


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