All’s well that ends well isn’t a failsafe, is it? The last half hour of Montreal’s set was consistent with the quality of their dazzling ‘07 Audio and ‘09 Digital performances, with the encore of album of the naughties contender Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? highlights ‘Gronlandic Edit’ and ‘She’s a Rejector’ close to perfect. The clever audience participation intro to Gronlandic Edit – SPOILER ALERT we didn’t realise we were singing it – finally loosened up a previously lethargic and static crowd before they went crazy to the final song’s bitter relationship break-up lament. There aren’t any other bands where you can legitimately shout back at the stage “There’s the girl that left me bitter, just want to pay some other girl to walk up to her and hit her.” and the two thirds full Haunt took full advantage of the opportunity before sending the Athens, Georgia band on their way with well deserved applause.
So all good then? Well no, not really. The openers really don’t help matters, it’s Sunday night and the crowd appears to need something lively to shake them out of a roast dinner and two pints down the pub stupor. In defence of the audience it certainly wasn’t going to be Calvin Love. Coming on stage and declaring yourself rock and roll is a mistake, if you then go on to offer – admittedly polished and coherently constructed – pseudo new romantic guff. The four piece’s set picked up a touch with a penultimate track that sounds like it could have been an outtake from The Breakfast Club soundtrack, but in the main flatlines as a limp crowd response confirms. The stage banter is no better with a particularly bland riff about using the “chunnel” as engaging as the music. Aspiring bands would do well to find out their management and booker, they must be earning their money.
Therefore, it was no real surprise that the crowd were caught cold by the headliners. Though this wasn’t helped by their damp squib attempt to create some drama around Kevin Barnes’s (vox, guitar, deity) stage entry which failed, as understanding what Rebecca Cash (key/vox) was saying was difficult as a result of accent and sound issues. The early part of the set saw a number of selections from last year’s Lousy With Sylvianbriar interspersed with newer material, however the stylistic change from their schizoid funk-pop of earlier material to the meat and potatoes Creedence like soft rock of the newer stuff is discombobulating. It’s not that the new material is poor, far from it; songs such as opener ‘Triumph of Disintegration’, with its sing along chorus and the Iggy-esque ‘Fugitive Air‘ shining, but they don’t match the disco strut of ‘Suffer For Fashion‘ or the acid-Prince of first half highlight and sing along ‘The Parties Crashing Us‘.
Finally, at around the 45 minute mark, the band unleash a sequence of songs that clearly cements their reputation as one of the best live outfits in indie-rock today. Veering from the lounge jazz of ‘And I’ve Seen A Bloody Shadow’, the aural sex of ‘Plastis Wafer’s’ and ‘St. Equisite’s Confession’, followed by the lyrically depressed but musical ejaculation of chemically-enhanced joy that is ‘Heimdalgate Like A Promethean Curse.’ And then THAT encore.
Unfortunately it’s just not quite enough to erase the memory of the slightly patchy beginning. Doubtless a good gig but of Montreal are capable of so much more.