Neon Indian @ l’Astral – 20th November 2019

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Neon Indian in Montreal

You have to hand it to Alan Palomo, a.k.a. Neon Indian.  He seems to come to Montreal right when we need him most; when the weather sucks.  Last time he came here, it was October 2016, just as the weather is getting crappy.  The time before that, it was January 2016, in the dead of winter.  And now, here we are: November 2019, blindsided by a winter that arrived early.  And who should appear, to bring the party to cheer us up and raise the spirits?  Yep, Alan is back, right on cue.

There’s a fairly large crowd waiting for him at l’Astral on this damp chilly Wednesday night too, and as soon as Alan and his 4-piece band arrive on stage and bust into Dear Skorpio Magazine, they set about dancing the night away.  Alan seems pleased to see us too; after a huge cheer greets the usual “Montreal, how are you feeling?” opening question, he replies “hey, the feelings mutual!”  The classic Annie and The Glitzy Hive keep the party going, thereby opening the set with the same 3 songs his last two shows here started with, in the exact same order!  Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Alan next explains: “it’s our first tour in 3 years, we have some new tunes!”  New song Toyota Man follows, the first Spanish-language song Alan has written, which both celebrates his Mexican heritage and derides America’s treatment of immigrants.  It’s unquestionably the most political ground Neon Indian has trodden to date, its message contrasting markedly with the bubbly synthpop sound and the comedic video which features a life-sized Donald Trump piñata battling a Mexican Abuela (yeah, you should look it up…).  Afterwards, Alan is beaming from ear to ear: “muchas gracias, thanks, that song is a lot of fun!”  51 Cygni Ave keeps up the cumbia vibe.

Terminally Chill takes us back to the heavier beats of the decade-old Psychic Chasms record, before being followed up by Street Level, which, according to Alan, “was written 6 years later, but is essentially the same song; there’s a lot of re-treads in the discography!”  Its sounds massive either way and especially so when Alan triggers a huge wave in the crowd to close out the song.  The Tron-esque synths of Mind Trips take things down a much spookier, ethereal path momentarily, before the party returns with the epic extended version of Slum Lord.

We return to new song territory once more, with a song “so new, we haven’t recorded it yet!  Feel free to provide constructive criticism!”  It’s another synthy Latino number, similar to Toyota Man, but with a hammering hi-hat, and after speaking with Alan personally after the show, has a working title of Everyone’s A DJ.  A hugely entertaining cover of the 1983 Spanish song Vamos A La Playa and the timeless Deadbeat Holiday emphatically close out the main set, with Alan sticking his mic into the faces of the front row to allow them to chip in on vocal duties.

Upon returning to the stage, Alan announces “we’re gonna play a couple from Era Extraña!”  The classic Hex Girlfriend and Polish Girl duly follow, culminating in a thunderous clap-along in parallel with a trippy synth solo.  Top marks for audience participation too; when Alan implores “I wanna see everyone jump up and down!” to begin Polish Girl, almost everyone in the entire room does!  It doesn’t go unnoticed either; Alan praises us soon after the song ends: “you guys are incredible, this is definitely my favourite place in North America!”A couple more covers (of Luis Miguel and Talking Heads) close out the show for good, which are given the full Neon Indian treatment and fit seamlessly into the set.  It’s a stellar 75 minutes all in all, and reminds us that although the winter storm clouds are coming, Neon Indian always seems to be the silver lining!

Setlist

  • 1.       Dear Skorpio Magazine
  • 2.       Annie
  • 3.       The Glitzy Hive
  • 4.       Toyota Man
  • 5.       61 Cygni Ave
  • 6.       Terminally Chill
  • 7.       Street Level
  • 8.       Mind, Drips
  • 9.       Slumlord
  • 10.   Slumlord’s Re-lease
  • 11.   Everyone’s A DJ (working title of new unrecorded song)
  • 12.   Vamos A La Playa (Righeira cover)
  • 13.   Deadbeat Summer

Encore

  • 14.   Hex Girlfriend
  • 15.   Polish Girl
  • 16.   Ahora Te Puedes Marchar (Luis Miguel cover)
  • 17.   This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads cover)

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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