It’s not often that I go to a concert most excited to hear a band’s newest material, but that was the case when I stepped into Terminal 5 last Friday (9/17.) There is a single word that accurately sums up what was witnessed: ridiculous. That’s not really a bad thing. Somewhat like The Flaming Lips, Of Montreal rely on spectacle to drive their shows, meaning that the main focus isn’t always on the music itself. While the band jammed on new tunes such as “Coquet Coquette” and “Sex Karma” they were joined by various monsters, skeleton children, robots and other such creatures. Sometimes this worked very well, and the interplay between Barnes and the creatures helped to liven up a song, such as on “Casualty of You” which was misplaced in the set-list. Eventually, however, the creatures followed the routine of chasing Barnes around which unfortunately caused the whole idea to become tired. Characters weren’t actually the strangest aspect of the show, that honor goes to the television-screened projection which appeared halfway through the set showing Barnes, solo on piano, covering Sibylle Baier’s “Tonight.” A powerful song. It was mesmerizing until the realization hit that there wasn’t anyone onstage, and suddenly this moment which originally appeared magical became forced and eerie.
The set-list predictably focused on the newest album, False Priest, and the songs mostly came through live except on “Our Riotious Defects,” which on record is funny, has plenty of campiness, and is fairly danceable. Live, it floundered about, unable to gain the right amount of energy causing the spoken word verses to sound flat. A nice highlight of the False Priest material was the appearance of Janelle Monae onstage to sing her part in “Godly Intersex,” which garnered much applause. Besides the mountain of new material, some attention was paid to older albums such as the crowd-pleasing “Gronlandic Edit” and “The Party’s Crashing Us” from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and The Sunlandic Twins respectively, both which were greeted with excitement. 2008’s Skeletal Lamping only contributed two songs to the set with the best being the deliciously over-the-top “For Our Elegant Caste.” To end the set the band cranked out a powerful “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” which was worth the price of admission in-and-of-itself.
Then there was the encore. Unless you were aware of what Of Montreal had been playing as an encore this tour, there was no preparing for it. The band returned to the stage and blasted into a medley of Michael Jackson hits, starting with “Thriller.” It was a bold move that paid off, as the people on the floor started to dance and the stage itself turned into a giant dance orgy as the band was rejoined by the costumed creatures and even Ms. Monae. It was an odd, and oddly satisfying, way to end the night.