Of Montreal @ Roseland Ballroom 10.10.08

Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal sits atop a white horse at New York’s Roseland Ballroom

Before Of Montreal’s show at Roseland, I confessed to photog extraordinaire Kathryn Yu that I’ve become a bit more jaded than I was when I first started this site.

It’s taken four years, but I’m no longer content to see a “good” show. I don’t go out as much as I used to and I will seldom travel very far for a show. But every now and then a great show will creep up, causing me to revert to my old ways of giddiness and joy. Of Montreal was one such show; even Kathryn must’ve agreed, as her facebook status the next day said “OH MY GOD. Mind, you have been blown.”

MP3: Of Montreal – Nonpareil of Favor

After a fun set by Love Is All and enough time after to set up the dozens of props they’d use throughout the set, Of Montreal took the stage. The band’s outfits were some of the best I’ve yet seen: The Late BP Helium had a flowing orange bohemian looking toga, Jamie and Davey wore respectable suits, Dottie had on a tutu and what looked like Lichtenstein/comic-book leggings, newcomer Ahmed Gallab looked like an outcast from MGMT and Kevin started the evening looking like a flamboyant mariachi. I say “started” because Kevin’s dress, like Of Montreal’s show, is anything but stagnant.

After a few songs, the band played host to an old west shootout — complete with a guy thrown through saloon doors. Then there was a fight between a character I’m going to call the Tammany Hall Tiger and the black ninja-ish characters Of Montreal have been carting around lately.

Now, a quick word on these skits. When I heard the band’s touring plans back in June, I was worried that they were aiming too high on this one. Traveling with a dozen or so actors just seemed like a great way to get burned. However, this show proved that Kevin’s wings aren’t made of wax; he can never fly too high. Everything was done during songs and never went on excessively long. The focus is still on the music and the effect is something like living inside the video for “Hemigsdale Gate…”

After the first skit of the night, we got the first of many special treats. Kevin removed his jacket and made his way to the piano used in the saloon scene. He played a solo section of one song on it that was one of the best moments of the night.

The first costume change, however, was also the first time I laughed during the Roseland show. Kevin disappeared behind the band’s rotating screen, only to emerge dressed as a Cardinal, sitting on a tall chair. His wife Nina played a seductive nun who caressed Kevin’s feet, put his sandals on him and shot the crowd sexy looks.

Now, I said I’ve become a bit jaded earlier, but I think the real problem is that most rock shows are predictable. And by that I mean that people show up, play the show and leave. One in ten shows are great, and that’s OK. But anyone who could have guessed the goings-on at Of Montreal’s Roseland show deserves to replace Miss Cleo, Jim Cramer and my Magic 8 ball.

Kevin disappeared for the second time in the night, only to return in a pair of golden underwear, riding on a white horse to sing “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” from his saddle. I guess it was only a matter of time, since Kevin once picked a photo of Prince on a white pegasus when he contributed a horse-themed mix to my Mixmas. Kevin’s a big Prince fan and actually wound up at an intimate Prince show later that night. What a strange and beautiful world.

The setlist was largely drawn from Skeletal Lamping, which suited the band’s theatrics well. The personal nature of Kevin’s new material combined well with the reoccurring themes in the bands’ plays: sexual appetite, feelings of inadequacy, conflict and struggle. The visuals and lyrics worked together to give a strange feeling of what it might be like to spend a day in Kevin Barnes’ mind.

After being confronted by spirits offering him drugs, Kevin was led to a noose on stage where he hung himself rather convincingly. Those same spirits then painted his practically naked body red and set him loose to rock again. Though he had already died earlier in the show, it was only later that Kevin was brought back from the grave. A team of gold buddahs and silver John McCains (?) lifted up a coffin to reveal Kevin Barnes, covered chin to toes in shaving cream. He sang for a while before jumping off the stage to hug some people in the front row. They were very appreciative. Kevin waved and the band left before one of one of the most memorable encores I’ve ever seen.

After the band came back out Kevin said that they were going to be joined by the special guest Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT for a cover. The band then launched into the most familiar song to anyone under the age of fifty: Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” That’s when the place went absolutely balls-out nuts. (MP3 of the cover)

So, jaded though I may be, the show really touched me. There were more emotions in that show than most any play or movie you could watch. Kevin bared his soul and made it interesting and memorable. It wasn’t the perfect show, but it might be the most memorable that I’ve ever seen.

All the photos after the jump…

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