Concert Review: Wolf Parade Packs the Punch
Promising Canadian Band Gives Dynamic, Energetic Performance
By Andrew Lee
April 7, 9:00 p.m.
Paradise Rock Club
Canadians — they give so much, yet ask for so little in return. Unfortunately, instead of truly thanking them for satiating our desire for maple syrup, beaver pelts, and Alex Trebek, we’re left with no choice but to give them crap for talking funny. I also heard they eat cr pes up there. The past two years in music, however, have made an ample case for re-evaluation of North America’s pecking order. The most consistent, satisfying rock album in each of the past two years has been from bands based not in New York but in Montreal. The Arcade Fire turned heads everywhere in 2004 with their almost universally acclaimed debut LP “Funeral,” and Wolf Parade’s 2005 debut “Apologies to the Queen Mary” is every bit as deserving of the same accolades.
The Arcade Fire comparisons will crop up because the bands occasionally collaborate (for example, Wolf Parade drummer Arlen Thompson played on The Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”), but more importantly because they share a song-writing maturity that’s well beyond what it should be after just one full-length record and an EP. As with many “Funeral” standouts, Wolf Parade’s songs are outstanding enough at the onset to convince you of their ability — but then reach a whole new level. This is what makes Wolf Parade such an engaging live act; they always have another ace up their sleeve, and they’re not content to keep it there.
Because of the superior quality of the album they’re touring behind, Wolf Parade has an easier job performing than most. A lot of credit for that is due to “Apologies” producer Isaac Brock (frontman for Modest Mouse) for maintaining a dense instrumental mix that gives the impression of a band crammed together on a tiny stage. That’s exactly how they looked Friday night — a four-piece and their touring guitarist on a platform with floor space only slightly larger than that of an undergraduate double. Luckily, that physical restriction only served to underscore the concentrated intensity that is Wolf Parade’s trademark.
Dueling songwriters Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner trade vocalist duties on the album like an indie Lennon-McCartney, but Boeckner was center stage Friday. In between amusingly polite stage banter (“You guys are super-nice …”), Boeckner weighted his voice with resignation in the piano-laden “Modern World” and with hoarse desperation in the band’s second best song, “Shine a Light.” His best of the night, however, was the despairing album closer “This Heart’s on Fire,” a track that borrows from the ironic lyrics of the Beatles’ “Getting Better.” Driven by an insistent keyboard riff, the song’s matter-of-fact despondency conjured an image of an ambulance making it to the scene way too late; even so, it was strangely danceable.
During Krug’s songs, Boeckner was periodically freed from his microphone to stagger back and forth while furiously drilling away at his guitar. The slow-tempo “Dinner Bells” allowed Boeckner to demonstrate his distorted sense of balance, which could’ve either been attributed to an extreme focus on his instrument or acute inebriation. Luckily, like Torgo from MST3K, he stumbled but never fell.
The reason “Shine a Light” can only be Wolf Parade’s second best is Krug’s “I’ll Believe in Anything.” Krug’s keyboard leads and his quivering, almost terrified voice are at the core of the band’s unique sound. “I’ll Believe in Anything” will probably be the best song he writes in a long time, and many (like me) would want to make the case that it was the best song of 2005. I can safely assume that it was the song everyone was waiting for the band to play, and just as confidently, I can say nobody was dissatisfied. The only reason it didn’t turn out to be the standout of the show (like it was on the album) is because there was simply no higher place to take the song than the one everyone had already heard.
Like The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade is going to be saddled with almost unreasonable expectations for their next album. But unlike that band, they never seem to be overreaching. Judging by both their current and newer material, Wolf Parade has an uncanny control over their sound. For a band that’s only been around for a couple of years and has only one album to its name, Wolf Parade inspires an impressive level of confidence and trust. They also seem to have a sense of how much better they are than reason would dictate: Boeckner playfully told the crowd that it was their “first show ever.” Lying Canucks.