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of Montreal In A Visually Stunning, Theatrical Performance

OfMontreal 20180403 web 01
OfMontreal 20180403 web 01

Known for his exciting live performances, his endless energy, and gender-bending personas, Kevin Barnes, singer/songwriter of the group of Montreal, lives up to the hype. His numerous costume changes and endless dance moves show enthusiastic skill. It was big! And loud!! Remarkable life-size puppets were a nearly constant presence on stage. All of it made for a spectacular performance and an amazing, colorful experience at the Cedar Cultural Center.

The Cedar Cultural Center is quite the gem in the Minneapolis/St. Paul music scene. I am becoming quite fond of this unique venue and the quirky concerts it brings. It is volunteer run and I relish being around other people who are passionate about music and live concerts.

There’s snack bar, including snacks from local Minneapolis businesses, and various beer and wine options for purchase. After I grabbed a small bag of Sunchips that Kevin Barnes allegedly touched (I was informed cheerfully by the eager staff), I spent my pre-show time observing over the stream of uniquely and elaborately dressed fans who were excitedly chattering about the impending concert.

The opener, Mega Bog, started things off with a sweet song and immediately captivated the audience. They then picked things up into such a blissfully upbeat song that I imagined us all frolicking through an endless field of dandelion puffs on a sunny day. The music was very easy to move to and pleasing to the ear. Everyone around me danced and moved in silence, involved in every lyric and beat.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

The next couple of songs were cheerfully yet meaningfully upbeat, with a pleasing variety of sounds. They cut in and out of the upbeat with thoughtful, softly sung verses and smooth vocal stylings. The uniqueness of this band is evident in the playful yet serious lead singer, Erin Birgy, and the jazzy, pop sounds from each instrument.The stage was set up in such a way that the mix of details had a story hidden within. For instance, the mustached keyboardist had a stack of books that he bought from a used bookstore earlier that day in front of his keyboard, his mug right next to it. The crowd seemed to appreciate the band members being their quirky selves.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

This band is a clearly passionate, talented group of musicians with an obvious ease and confidence on stage. I really enjoyed the small anecdotes Erin Birgy casually threw out between songs.

They brought up a saxophone on one the last songs and people erupted into cheers. Everyone on stage was in full swing near the end of their set, with dramatic stops and starts. It ended with another sweet solo. With two great albums under their belt and an eccentric and captivating live show, I look forward to what Mega Bog brings to the music world in the years to come.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

The lights dim, the packed venue goes silent for a second, and then cheers fill the room with a buzz of excitement for what’s to come. Clearly, I did not know what I was in for, and neither did the people I spoke to next me. We came to see indie-pop band Of Montreal, but from the second they started, we knew this was not just a typical, energetic indie pop concert. The stage erupted into a dazzling theatrical performance, starting with a larger-than-life puppet walking out on stage. The giant screen behind was lit up with psychedelic collages of different artistic images and patterns. Kevin Barnes danced out on stage and from that moment, every second, every minute was a choreographed part of the show.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Of Montreal impressively performed multiple songs in a row, without a break. This insane kind of energy and production, put into such a long chunk of very danceable music, became the show’s norm. Kevin Barnes had numerous on and off stage costume changes, each showcasing a different personality. During each set of songs, life-size puppets came on stage, eccentric and exotic in their own artistic way. Some puppets were skulls with glittery bones, some were dragons with dazzling skins, another was created out of pure imagination, all wooed the crowd to cheers and shouts and clapping.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

With a couple different stations of instruments, including two drum sets, keyboards, electronic boards, and a guitarist, there was an amazing multitude of genres covered in one performance. A little of everything was played, from the modern synth indie pop on their semi-recent album Innocent Reaches, to the glammed up 60’s inspired psychedelic rock of their early 2010’s albums, to the indie rock songs of the 2000s, most notably the song everyone sang along with, “Wraith Pinned To The Mist and Other Games” — otherwise known as the chorus repeats, “Let’s pretend we don’t exist, let’s pretend we’re in Antartica.” It was in this moment that all became crystal clear.

This production was a beautiful, glorious escape from the pain in life to what feels good. It isn’t really as simple as that, but sweeping statements never are. It was also an escape from ourselves and all the emotions we feel, everything we feel that we fail at, and how others fail us. The lyrics of the songs detail these emotions, things we all feel from time to time. Art is a way to bring beauty to the masses. Bringing that beauty on stage was what Kevin Barnes did for us, and also for himself.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

He definitely brings a party- a fantastic, exciting party. Suddenly, confetti popped over the center of the crowd and everyone erupted in more joyful cheers as colorful pieces flew all around us. Barnes sang his heart out during every song. Most songs were upbeat, but some were slow and meaningful. He wore a fun, curly blonde wig in the beginning numbers, and switched to a more serious, white, straight wig during the serious, ballad type songs.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Nearing the end, the crowd wasn’t done yet. Everyone cheered as more confetti fell now on both sides of the massive crowd, the band officially left the stage and the lights dimmed. After hopeful yells for one more song, another artistically creative puppet got on stage and prompted a cheer sequence. The hype was delivered to an amazing, high energy encore. Did we expect any less?!

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Decorated with a short, bright purple wig, Barnes brought it for the last set of songs, one of them being the popular “Bunny ain’t no kind of rider” from 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? Performers in the audience, costumed, of course, held up by fans, legs spread out in flexible splits, brought the show to new heights. Chanting “Let’s Relate” from 2016’s Innocent Reaches, Barnes hoped to bring listeners together in a sort of understanding and discussion. After four songs in a fantastic encore, he thanked Minneapolis and left the stage.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

This performance was a stunning, talented showcase of theater, art, and music. The music was alluring and moving and people danced like they had absolutely no care in the world.  Over an hour of energetic dancing, dress changes, and singing in his seductive nature, Kevin Barnes again impressed Minnesota with his vocal range and stamina.

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Photo by Kathleen Ambre

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