Tonight is one of those nights where it’s both amazing and frustrating to be a gig-loving Montrealer.
Amazing in that there is so much to offer on this night; around the city, there are gigs by Slaves, Sting, Ariana Grande and The Radio Dept.
Frustrating in that you can only pick one.
After much deliberation, The Radio Dept. got my vote, and upon arriving at Théatre Fairmount, it seems like a good chunk of the gig-going populace made the same choice (granted, not as big a chunk as Ariana surely got!). Brooklyn 2-piece Germans get things started the right way. Consisting of just a vocalist and a bassist, they play over pre-recorded backing tracks, which looks a little minimal at first but makes perfect sense once they start playing. The backing tracks are not simply basic drum loops, but have all kinds of weird and wonderful instruments thrown in; I think I made out a sitar and some tubular bells at one point. Indeed, to have all the instruments used on their songs played live would likely need a stage the size of Ariana’s to accomodate! The bass, the only instrument actually played live, nicely beefs up the funk-heavy backing tracks and gets the floor section moving nice and early in the evening. You know the crowd enjoyed it when, at the request of vocalist Julia, they clap along to an entire song from start to finish. Not bad when you think about it; I’ve seen headliners lack such participation when it comes to an extended round of clapping!
It’s a dark, smoky stage that greets Sweden’s The Radio Dept., which seems kind of ironic for a band often described as “dream pop.” If that’s true, then this is a moodier brand of dream pop than I’m used to. Sloboda Narodu (meaning “Death to fascism, freedom to the people” in Serbo-Croatian) kicks off the set, as it does highly acclaimed latest record Running Out Of Love, in a dark, spacey, laid-back manner, and is followed by an extended bass-driven version of Committed To The Cause, which sounds especially ethereal in the live arena. We Got Game sounds like 90’s techno meeting Kings Of Convenience on a blind date, and sparks flying.
After the reggae vibes of Never Follow Suit, frontman Johan Duncanson explains that the next song was “our attempt to overthrow the Swedish Government – it didn’t happen.” After laughing with the crowd, they launch into The New Improved Hypocrisy, which suddenly takes on a whole new meaning given the back story. The instrumental Running Out Of Love builds slowly, almost disjointedly, before ending in total darkness, before The Worst Taste In Music sees a multi-faceted light display throughout, beginning with the stage flashing red at the beginning, then white in the breakdown, before finally turning blue in the outro; it’s both magnificent and spooky at the same time.
Huge cheers greet the arrival of the classic Heaven’s On Fire, the embodiment of a summery song and probably the reason the “dream pop” label stuck in the first place, before the mood darkens a little again on Death To Fascism, which reprises parts of Sloboda Narodu from the beginning of the show.
Swedish Guns, unquestionably a highlight from the latest record, is even more glorious live, with that incredible unique beat which one cannot possibly describe (you just need to YouTube it, I don’t even know where to begin…) sounding even more incredible as it tears through the air of Théatre Fairmount. The main set reaches a storming climax as Teach Me To Forget and Occupied are accompanied by House beats to get everybody moving once more; epic stuff.
A 2-song encore soon follows, with just Johan and bassist Martin Larsson playing electric guitars in perfect harmony to begin 1995, before the rest of the band joins midway through to complete the song. The show ends after an hour and a quarter with Why Won’t You Talk About It?, with the crowd full of smiles and dance moves by the end. Clearly, this band means a lot to a lot of people. A great band, a great show, and a great decision to choose Théatre Fairmount tonight!
Committed To The Cause
We Got Game
Never Follow Suit
The New Improved Hypocrisy
Running Out Of Love
The Worst Taste In Music
Heaven’s On Fire
Death To Fascism
Teach Me To Forget
Why Won’t You Talk About It?
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :