A Pageant of Bizarre

May 2nd, 2011

Of Montreal – Webster Hall – April 30, 2011

of_montreal-3 Gold-chained, scantily clad women were grinding on frontman Kevin Barnes—dressed in drag with a flowered beret atop his head—and scores of masked luchadores engaged in choreographed wrestling matches, while silver-winged butterfly-like creatures proudly displayed their plumage and encased Barnes as spandex-wearing dancers hid behind an assortment of masks. Which is all to say that on Saturday night, Webster Hall was the epicenter of crazy, a hard-earned title in a city with no shortage of irrationality. The pageant of bizarre costumes and characters continued throughout the concert. If this were a lesser band, you could write off the stage production as a distraction. But as Of Montreal has displayed over the course of ten studio albums, most recently on False Priest, style and substance can coexist and can even complement each other.

On hyperliterate songs like “Coquet Coquette” and “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider,” Barnes combined silver-tongued whit with preening and prancing. The result, while genuinely weird, was as endearing as the entire troupe’s energy was infectious. It felt life-affirming to see disparate craziness play out onstage with unrelenting enthusiasm. And at the end of the encore, featuring “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” and “She’s a Rejector,” each band member crowd-surfed to the back of the audience only to return to the stage and sing “America the Beautiful” followed by a violin-led hoedown. It is this spirit of senseless fun that makes an Of Montreal show memorable, even if some details are lost. —Jared Levy