Of Montreal Show Is Saturated With Color

Photo: Electric glam. Kevin Barnes of the band of Montreal donned an elaborate costume for the group's performance Friday night in Oakland.
Skyler Reid/Staff
Electric glam. Kevin Barnes of the band of Montreal donned an elaborate costume for the group's performance Friday night in Oakland.

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Of Montreal at the Fox Theater
Look at all the glam and glitter from the show at ...

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While waiting for of Montreal to take the stage last Friday at Oakland's Fox Theater, someone in the crowd inflated about a hundred candy-colored colored balloons and released them into the crowd. They scattered all over the ornamental concert hall in a flurry of aggressive brightness.

Beyond just a between-sets diversion, this image proved to be a great approximation of the impending manic, sugar-rush pop and flamboyant, carnivalesque performance.

Of Montreal put on what can legitimately be called a "show," as opposed to a mere "concert." The band wore elaborate costumes and gaudy makeup. Effeminate frontman Kevin Barnes sported a white cape, periwinkle blue tights and glitter raccoon-mask makeup, while guitarist Bryan Poole favored pink, damaged angel's wings and smeared lipstick.

Light panels positioned around the drum riser hectically flashed. Three screens at the back of the stage played psychotic, hallucinatory cartoons. Amid this chaos, a troupe of theatrical stage performers, donning skin-tight unitards and LSD-nightmare masks performed kitschy routines to the music.

On top of this visual overload blasted of Montreal's effervescent take on glam, electro-pop, disco and psychedelic. Their songs, balancing programmed beats with live instrumentation, bled into one another like a DJ's set, filling the Fox with a gapless euphoric high and plenty of dancing fodder. The crowd pogoed and pulsated to irresistibly catchy songs like "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" and "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games."

The show wasn't flawless though. Maybe it was a sound tech rather than an arrangement problem, but of Montreal's sound was too often stripped of texture and devolved into a blaring synthetic hum. The otherwise fantastic cover of Bat for Lashes' haunting "Daniel" suffered this fault, occasionally disintegrating into an indecipherable buzz with Barnes doing his best Prince scream over the sonic mud.

Another potential problem-or, depending on your taste, remarkable virtue-was how of Montreal's visual and sonic onslaught didn't wait for anyone to catch up. Audience members were completley submerged in of Montreal's Technicolor world, without any chance to come back up for a breather. Being overwhelmed like this made of Montreal's live show a love it or hate it proposition. Either you gave into and enjoyed all the sensory stimuli being flung at you or you drove yourself crazy trying to piece it all together.

If you fall into the latter camp, you probably would have enjoyed fantastic opener Jon Brion's set much more. This multi-instrumentalist session man, film-score composer and first-call producer-turned-singer-songwriter took the stage solo, eschewing all the bells and whistles that marked of Montreal's freakfest.

He layered live recordings of drums, synths, piano and guitar, creating one-man band showpieces. This technique worked extremely well on impromptu audience requests "Helter Skelter," which somehow morphed from honky-tonk to heavy metal seamlessly, and "I Put a Spell on You," which took off in a glitchy techno direction.

Brion's set was playful but much less attention-grabbing than of Montreal's gargantuan show.

Of Montreal's sensual overloading may have grated on anyone who prefers no nonsense, frill-less performances. But regardless of diverging tastes, the band couldn't possibly be faulted for lacking a unique, well-executed vision.

The show wasn't overwhelming for the sake of sheer spectacle; in a way, it was a clever social comment. When an attention deficient, habitually multi-tasking generation like ours finds surfing hundreds of TV channels while checking Facebook while instant messaging while Tweeting from an iPhone while finishing up some homework to be a commonplace activity, of Montreal's polyphony makes a lot of sense.


Show David your glitter raccoon mask at [email protected]

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