Wolf Parade claws up NYC’s Terminal 5 (7/13)

The universe did not want me to see a Wolf Parade show. For some odd reason, until last night, every one of my attempts to see the Montreal band perform had been unsuccessful. Initially, I couldn’t get tickets to their show when I was in high school. Then, for the next few tours, their dates didn’t coincide with my geographical location—I was away at college, on vacation, etc. Finally, as if I was the subject of The Truman Show, if the point of The Truman Show was to never allow Truman to see Wolf Parade and for viewers to watch each one of his ill-fated attempts unfold, the band canceled on the date I did have tickets for, in London of all places. I was starting to convince myself that maybe it wasn’t worth seeing them, and that since I never would, I should just give up on the band altogether.

But, I guess somebody got tired of playing this mean trick on me, because last night I did, finally, end up seeing Wolf Parade. Whoever pulled the plug on the cruel joke deserves a nice pat on the back, because Wolf Parade puts on a damn fine show. One that I am thoroughly grateful for having seen. The way things were going, I could have easily never seen it. But it’s a good thing I held out all this time. And really, the four years of anticipation only made seeing these monsters live all the more satisfying. Last night, the four guys jammed their dose of math-laden Ziggy Stardust on a mixture of even more coke and steroids down every single throat present at New York’s Terminal 5. My ears are still buzzing with the frisk guitar licks and punchy synths. This is not a bad thing.

But, before glam could meet mathy post-punk, the night began with the gothic synth-rock of Zola Jesus. The group’s instrumentation was aesthetically pleasing, but the same cannot be said of Nika Danilova’s vocals, which were unfortunately mixed way too high.  As she threw herself about the stage, covering her face in a black shawl and climbing atop speakers, I wished she’d just sink beneath the dreamy organs and dark synths that accompanied her.  Instead, the girl’s baroque vocals took center stage, and they seemed to be all over the place.

Next up were Japanese imports Moools (predominantly known as the band Mount Eerie covered once), whose off-kilter Polvo meets Slint-esque post-punk was welcomed with open arms. Their big-haired frontman sang in Japanese over shadowy unraveling jams in between squealing atonal breakdowns and slick fret noodling, making Zola Jesus look even worse. In between songs, the guy tried to banter, which proved rather difficult given his poor grasp on the English language. This of course, did not stop him from urging attendees to “Buy our stuff,” ultimately conceding that he had no idea what the phrase meant. People laughed. He was funny. You know, self-promotion doesn’t sound so self-indulgent when the vehicle is a little Japanese man’s broken English.

After the heavy-hitting Japanese outfit left the stage, it was time for the main event. The Wolves slid out on stage a good ten minutes late, but to a forgiving, eager crowd. They picked up/saddled up to their instruments before quickly jumping into Mount Zoomer’s “Soldier’s Grin”, Broeckner almost immediately dripping wet with sweat and flailing about the stage. With Krug calmly perched behind his keys, the not-so odd couple balanced the stage out nicely.  From there on out, the band smashed through a set filled mostly with material from the just-released Expo 86 and 2008’s At Mount Zoomer. Though less songs came from indie classic Apologies to the Queen Mary, the crowd didn’t seem to mind too much. Not a single set selection was met with disappointment, fans screaming and applauding at each song’s opening notes. Perhaps it’s because each one was executed with such sheer fury and passion for it not to matter.

I’m probably not the only one who had to give Expo 86 a good deal of time to appreciate, but after last night’s performance, I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out why. Almost every song is a hard-hitting rocker fit with a catchy chorus, an intriguing narrative, and dozens of captivating guitar and synth licks. And these songs only hit harder in the live setting. Though Krug and Broeckner stressed that Expo 86 was recorded live with little to no overdubs, it’s a little tougher to feel all the energy that may be there when just listening to the record. When the songs happen in front of you, you can see and feel the power unfold. Each Wolf Parade song is filled to the brim with weighty guitar lines and dancy synths that allow for momentum to slowly build until the things reach full speed. These steady tumbling guitar licks (you know, in that kind of “Seven Nation Army” way) make Wolf Parade so damn fun to nod along to. As the band plays, Boeckner spastically attacks his guitar, howling into the mic with everything he’s got. Krug either harmonizes with his croak or spits out cryptic lines with equal ferocity. Together, and with the rest of the band, these guys sound like they just got unleashed from their cage.

Though the new songs sounded as good if not better than some of the older ones, spine-tingling renditions of classics sent undeniable electricity through the crowd. Apologies’ “Shine A Light”, “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”, “I’ll Believe in Anything”, and “This Heart’s on Fire” felt like rock staples, outstretched hands jutting out of the dense crowd. But perhaps it was the rocked out version of “Fine Young Cannibals” that felt the most anthemic, immediately sending a surge through the uproarious crowd. The song felt as if it could have been played to a sold out Madison Square Garden, filling the thick air with electricity.

From what Wolf Parade put on display last night, there isn’t much separating them from acts like the Arcade Fire. There’s no reason why these tunes shouldn’t be filling arenas. They certainly sound large enough. For Wolf Parade fans, we’re lucky to still hear these arena scale songs in smaller venues. Good thing the band didn’t find their way into these arenas in the four years it took me to finally get to one of their shows. I still feel like I’ve seen them in their prime, and that says a lot about these “Fine Young Cannibals”. Godspeed.

Soldier’s Grin
What Did my Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)
Palm Road
Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts
Ghost Pressure
In the Direction of the Moon
Fine Young Cannibals
This Heart’s on Fire
I’ll Believe in Anything
Little Golden Age
California Dreamer
Pobody’s Perfect

Cloud Shadow on the Mountain
Shine A Light

Kissing the Beehive


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