Wednesday, 26 February 2014

live review: of Montreal / Calvin Love @ The Art School, 18th February

Midway through his debut Scottish show, synth-toting songsmith Calvin Love decides to “go out on a limb” by playing a cover. The song in question (Love is the Drug) is about as safe a choice as you can get in the circumstances – an indicator that Love’s forte isn’t bold surprises but rather reiterations of tested dynamics. Still, his original material has a definite allure, with nostalgic, 80s-fashioned noir pop imparting a subtle intoxication; Love is the drug indeed.

What it doesn’t impart, unfortunately, is much energy, and the crowd that greets Kevin Barnes’ cosmic headliners is initially rather muted. But standoffishness isn’t really a sustainable option when a becaped man is enthusiastically thrusting his crotch in your direction, and as the room inevitably yields to the funky eclecticism snaking out of the speakers, of Montreal garner the reaction their animated performance deserves.

Concentrating on material from Sunlandic Twins onwards, first-half highlights include the dayglo chorus of The Party’s Crashing Us and the hippy strut of Triumph of Disintegration. But the best moments come at the tail-end, with a brace of Hissing Fauna tracks concluding the main set: first Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse and then an epic The Past is a Grotesque Animal in all its dark splendour. The latter makes for such an intense finale that it almost seems a shame to dilute the effect with an encore. But with demanding foot-stomps from the crowd threatening to bring down the newly refurbished Art School’s masonry, the band duly oblige, appending two more Hissing Fauna cuts for good measure. With costume changes, psychedelic backdrops and the aforementioned racy stage moves adding to the night’s showmanship and spectacle, the curtain falls all too soon.

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