Concert Review: Wolf Parade at Le National, Montreal

Wolf Parade performed the first show of their international tour at Montreal’s Le National on July 8th and what better way to start a set of gigs than by performing back-to-back shows in a hometown venue? When these guys jam, they do their band name justice. I kid you not, they all resemble wolves engaging their instruments in passion, angst, and fun.

A little background on the wolves: Dan Boeckner, Dante DeCaro, Spencer Krug, and Arlen Thompson have participated in successful indie projects including Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, Hot Hot Heat, and Handsome Furs. Wolf Parade’s first full-length album, “Apologies to the Queen Mary,” got a Polaris nomination back in 2006 and after the success of their first LP, the band released 2008’s “At Mount Zoomer” under Sub Pop. Spencer Krug’s lyrics follow from the aesthetic of Patty Smith, whose “rock poetry” appropriated fragments of symbolist writing to construct indeterminate sequences of metaphor and meaning.The venue itself was a charming antiquarian space in Montreal’s gay village called “Le National”. There were amble spots to sit, stand, or navigate, and the populated bar was busy through the late hours. Le National’s interior is graced by red lights, with shadows that reverberate off the walls in the main hall, and amber light waves refract as in a darkroom. Outside the venue, artists were setting up displays of their work, as the whole street was made accessible to pedestrians for the summer months. Dan Boeckner brushed my shoulder by the bar as I ordered my first double-whisky of the evening.

Next to sworn Wolf Parade fanatics were devotees of The Mooors, hailing from Tokyo, Japan, who were a nice surprise as an opening act. The whole performance felt like the funky karaoke bar scene from “Lost in Translation”. Everyone was just dancing and having a good time. I had absolutely no idea what they were singing about, since I don’t speak Japanese, but it worked. The lead singer’s afro was just plain old cool, and their ska aesthetic won the favor of indie hipsters, punks, and neo-mods alike. Club kids were sporting plaid shorts, graphic tees, and downing beer and whisky in true Montreal sub-culture fashion.

Wolf Parade hit the stage with the title track from 2005’s “Apologies to the Queen Mary”; “You are a Runner and I am my Father’s Son”, with its punches and thrashes leading the way into the verse. Spencer launched into the overtly anti-fascist lyrics, “I got a number on me.” After the eclectic opener, the gear shifted into one of Dan’s newer classic rock tracks, “Ghost Pressure”. The opening synth progression sounded remarkably like a Casio you might find in an old music shop or tucked away in a basement among ruined antiques and torn sweaters. The track brought me right back to the last Handsome Furs show I attended, with the Face Control noise structuring the song. Wolf Parade then segued into the title track of “Expo 86”;  “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain”. The audience began grooving to Spencer Krug’s much beloved “oh oh oh oh”’s and ambiguous metaphors of never being  “born as a scorpion.” The set carried on smoothly with the beloved classic, “Language City” and its catchy refrain, “We are not at home, we are not at home”.

The boys from Wolf Parade were at home, and everyone felt it. Dan and Spencer kept it even, alternating songs one by one. “What did my Lover Say?” was Spencer’s lyrical satire that motivated dancing from all audience members, inebriated or otherwise. Writing about the contradictions between fame and genius, Spencer sang “I have a friend who’s a genius, nobody listens to him…I have some friends who are famous…la la la la la la”.

“Little Golden Age” and “Palm Road” showcased Dan at his finest moments; frantically bellowing into the microphone like an animal released from its cage. “I’ll Believe in Anything” and “Pobody’s Nerfect” sealed the deal for me. Not only can Wolf Parade perform, but they can design a hell of a setlist. Few do it better.

Rating : 9.3/10

For more Wolf Parade: http://www.myspace.com/wolfparade

EXPO 86