Sunday 12 September 2010

Wolf Parade, Glee Club, Birmingham

Having been smitten by the Handsome Furs, whom I stumbled across last year, it only seemed natural to investigate Dan Boeckner’s other band, Wolf Parade, who conveniently booked a date at the Nottingham Rescue Rooms but then later cancelled it, citing scheduling issues. So rather than being disappointed we decide to go to Birmingham, where they are playing the Glee Club... which conjures up horrid images of America TV programmes...

The Glee Club is actually predominantly a stand-up comedy venue that has expanded into music. Situated in Birmingham's Chinese Quarter close to the Hippodrome Theatre, it opened in 1994. Since then they have opened venues in Cardiff, Oxford and now this month, one is scheduled to open in Nottingham.

Quite what the name has to do with comedy I’m not sure, the TV series had one thing right; traditionally a glee club is to do with music.

Support tonight is from Peter Kernel, who we thought was probably a soloist but may even have been a comedian but we’re totally wrong. ‘He’ is a three piece from Switzerland and as they start up, the floor immediately starts to throb under the assault of the very heavy bass. My ears will probably be out of commission tomorrow. Musically they sound a bit like our own Johnny Foreigner with the interplay of words between their female bass player and male guitarist. Then again, the girl kind of fancies herself as a Kim Deal I reckon and the chap doesn’t do anything to dispel the Pixies comparisons. That all sounds quite promising but for all that they are oddly unsatisfying.

So to Montreal’s Wolf Parade. I’ve been digging though Wolf Parade’s first two albums which are full of great moments but something about them just doesn’t completely satisfy then last month their new album ‘Expo 86’ dropped through my letter box and it’s bloody brilliant.

The ‘Expo’ is that big exposition ‘fair’ type thing that Prince Albert started up 150 odd years ago and now travels around the globe every year. Expo 86 was held in Vancouver and apparently that is where five young boys first became friends and made a pact to meet up sometime in the future to form a rock band. Believe it or not, that is the alleged beginning of Wolf Parade.

But never mind all that, they are now just a four piece who still find time to do Wolf Parade between their assorted side projects. The band take the stage and Dan Boeckner launches into ‘Soldier's Grin’ from their second album.

Boeckner, on the guitar, democratically shares lead vocal duties with keyboard player Spencer Krug, who promises us a mix of old and new songs without obviously playing the one you really want to hear. He takes vocals on ‘What Did My Lover Say?’ off the new record before handing back to Boeckner for another new song, the wonderful ‘Palm Road’.

Krug and Boeckner have complementary but differing styles and talents. Krug’s songs are more poetic and melodic such as on ‘Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts’ and he works away busily on his array of keyboards and other assorted electronic gadgets. He is not only a man in dazzling control of the technology at his fingertips but it is equally enthralling to see him perfectly in control of his stool, which he rarely sits on but instead manages to pivot around with his foot, never once losing control of it.

Boeckner is more old school. He belts out his numbers and pours passion into both his singing and his guitar playing. Whipping songs like ‘Pobody's Nerfect’ off the new ‘Expo 86’ up into a fervent, hot-blooded frenzy.

As a new recruit to the Wolf Parade cause I find all the new songs sound terrific tonight, although so too do oldies such as ‘This Hearts on Fire’ and ‘I'll Believe in Anything’ which are less familiar to me.

When they are not playing the lead Krug and Boeckner back each other up well, letting their respective instruments take a more background role. Everything combines together very well. In fact, the band as a whole have a lot of chemistry and that always makes for a good live show. On the other side of Krug to Boeckner is Dante DeCaro pummelling his guitar as hard as Boeckner does while behind them Arlen Thompson is a thunderous presence on the drums.

Damn good stuff.

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