Ahead of their Dublin date this Saturday, Simon Roche got a sneak peek at the Montreal band’s stupendous live show.
What have we done to deserve such riches in 2008? Barely enough time to come down after Mercury Rev’s glorious theatre the night before, we are back in Vega for the Montreal four-piece, who claim to be a five-piece of whom one member couldn’t travel to Europe. Strange fish, but no surprise. On the Apologies’¦ tour in Whelan’s they were so wasted that they accidentally beat a tambourine to death on stage in a magnificent evening. You certainly couldn’t accuse them of growing up. Perpetually pissed (for three years at least), Spencer Krug hunches over his keyboard while Dan Boeckner, looking like one of Avedon’s ’80s mid-west drifters, holds everything together with his coiled energy and ultra fuzzy, choppy guitar.
Giving equal measure and energy to both old album and new, they hit their mark right after -An Animal In Your Care’, three songs in, and from then, they drag every song through some very harsh landscapes and then beat them senseless. This works particularly well with the new stuff, as some of it warps in and out of nicely paced and nicely mental and played live, these songs become beasts. As befits a band haphazardly put together at the beginning, they look without pretensions and wildly different. The baby-faced, ‘I think I’m going to faint’ intoxication on keys up front, the polite menace on guitar beside him, the spacey, on a slightly different planet bassist and the way too sober-looking drummer look like they couldn’t string a chorus of -Happy Birthday’ together but once the songs begin, they’re as focused as you could imagine. The beauty of it is they look like they haven’t rehearsed and don’t think too much about what they are doing but this relaxed feeling makes it an even more enjoyable experience – the crowd seem to let themselves go a little more in this atmosphere.
Picking highlights is difficult as there wasn’t a weak song in the set. The sold-out crowd are as up for it as the band and every song brings yelps of satisfaction from different corners. New arrival -Language City’ is an instant winner and, as good as -California Dreamer’ is on the album, the live version takes it from bantam to heavyweight. Old songs that sound as fresh as toothpaste are -Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts’, and there’s a justifiably massive reception for -This Heart’s On Fire’, as we near the end. It builds to such a massive wig-out with Boeckner controlling chaos on his guitar right to the end. The 10 minute epic -Kissing The Beehive’ is like eight songs in one, all seamlessly melding like the crowd and band. Krug’s screaming ‘Fire in the hole, fire in the hole’ and it’s a miracle of his constitution that he’s able to stand, or even hunch. A wave of madness and joy and false endings. Put your ring back on and take your husband home.
Photos: Jakob Bekker-Hansen