Of Montreal have scored quite a critical success with their new album False Priest. Mastermind Kevin Barnes has focused on songcraft in a way unseen on any of his band’s prior nine albums. The potential for straight up songs has always been there. He just had this ADD manner of shifting songs in tempo, melody and sometimes all out atmosphere with little warning.
This all reached its peak with 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, which has often been derided as a mess and failure. I, at first, thought the same thing, but repeated listens and a familiarity of the songs rewards patience. The resulting tour, not surprisingly, was also an explosion of over-stimulating stage sets. They even had a full-on rotating set with a room-full of props. From memories of them playing the floor at the Miami Polish-American Club, in the late nineties, when they were still on the Kindercore label, this was a grandiose upgrade. So, the last couple of times I have seen them since the Skeletal Lamping tour, the band has been its own tough act to follow.
That said, for an Of Montreal show, Friday’s performance at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale was not bad at all. Kid Sister was hand-picked by Barnes to open this brief leg of the tour (a lengthier Of Montreal tour is scheduled for the spring). Kid Sister is a far cry from the much heavier hyped Janelle Monae who not only toured with Of Montreal last year but also added vocals to a song on False Priest. Of Montreal returned the favor with a Barnes-penned collaboration on Monae’s debut album, the ArchAndroid. Monae then went off to tour with Prince, of all people. She has probably received more acclaim than Of Montreal, as some great new hope for alternative neo soul.
Kid Sister made an effort, but the send-up to old “skool” hip-hop did little to move the crowd of white, teenage indie kids. Let’s face it, they ain’t the target audience to appreciate that genre of music, which, as Kid Sister presented it, really clung tight to the roots of hip-hop and never ventured beyond that box. See the last song of their set here:
After the derivative beats and swagger of Kid Sister, her only back up, a loud-mouthed DJ on a computer and a pair of turntables, stuck around on stage to play some hits and classics. But the only song that had the crowd screaming and jumping was a snippet of A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” He soon left the stage, buoyant and positive with his work, and it was a short wait for Of Montreal to appear.
When the band did take the stage, they formed a semi-circle around the microphone stand where Barnes would rule the stage with his Prince-inspired sexualized energy and a nod to the ambiguous glam rock pioneered by David Bowie in the early 70s. It was a neat set of songs spanning mostly the later years of the Of Montreal discography, and the entire performance lasted a little less than an hour and a half.
As the band’s set up was in the back and corners of the stage, the show hardly showcased musicianship. More essential to the show were the theatrics of costumed dancers that continually invaded the stage. The outfits were over-the-top and the antics often spilled over into the crowd. At one point, a girl and guy donned pink skin-tight suits with pig masks to ride a raft on top of the crowd as they humped each other. I was not recording at the time, but luckily YouTuber Dukethrash captured it:
I missed recording a lot of the theatrics, such as when Barnes entered the stage on a dragon composed of his dancers for “Hydra Fancies.” But some of my favorite bits were a bit more subtle. Kid Sister returned to the stage for a great rendition of the Prince-penned “Sex Shooter” as a grotesque fashion show featuring some dancers feeding some lucky members of the front row from metal catering trays. Here is that song in its entirety:
Before that, I was able to capture a couple of songs back-to-back. Here is “Famine Affair” and “Suffer For Fashion”:
I also recorded the start of the encore, including two more back-to-back numbers before my camera died just as “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” began. That would have been the last song of the night. Here’s what I got of the encore, which began with the Of Montreal dance crew rousing up the audience, a shtick the band routinely uses to keep the energy going even when they are off-stage:
All things considered, it was an entertaining show, even lacking the high-production craziness of the prior tour. Of Montreal are certainly a band for the new generation, as could be seen by the age of the audience, but also, they know how to hold their attention. The theatrics even pulled my focus away from the musicians more often than I liked.