Live Review: Of Montreal, Janelle Monáe, San Francisco, CA, Oct. 29, 2010

The members of Of Montreal were not the only ones bedecked in wigs, drag and glitter tonight. On the eve of Halloween, the fans rivaled the headliners in costume-contest categories such as most creative, best Janelle Monáe impersonation and best “I’m supposed to be a nurse/fairy/policewoman, even though I’m wearing a four-inch skirt.”

There was an ocean of sweaty, painted bodies milling around the gilded halls of the former vaudeville theater, along with a high frequency of glow sticks and hand-holding, the latter probably because guys don’t want to admit they like Of Montreal and so get their girlfriends to bring them.

Janelle Monáe opened with an ear-tingling, hip-swiveling act that was part James Brown, part Gnarls Barkley and part Whitney Houston. She hushed the room with her epic pipes on ballad “Smile,” and a scrum of actors lumbered around onstage in hooded cloaks for “Dance Or Die.” Of Montreal’s flamboyant frontman Kevin Barnes joined Monáe for a guest appearance before segueing into the main act.

Barnes and Co. crafted a performance best described as Alice In Wonderland—the Penthouse centerfold version–on acid. The lead singer pranced around in a purple leotard, frilly apron, headscarf and billowing tunic probably stolen from a noble at the Renaissance Faire, kicking aside most of his clothes halfway through the show. Players in head-to-toe, skin-colored body suits wearing skeleton and swine masks writhed among the unfazed band members.

While a portion of Of Montreal’s set included classics such as “The Party’s Crashing Us” and “Suffer For Fashion,” the band mostly featured songs off latest album False Priest, a Prince-like, collaborative body of work that lends itself to funk devolution. During each psychedelic, guitar-scratching “Let’s Get It On” montage, Barnes would perform antics that made the audience’s collective jaw drop. He grinded with a pig/human female in a way that would make Lil Wayne blush. Another time Barnes mimed fellatio and squealed, “You just made my mouth pregnant! What will my dentist say?”

The encore was a Michael Jackson tribute, featuring “Thriller” and “PYT.” During that time, several fans clambered onstage and began an impromptu dance party with the band, although the guitarist had to shove off a couple stumbling lushes.

Even without the added excitement of the crowd being able to prematurely show off their clever/slutty Halloween attire, Of Montreal has upped the ante yet again with its crew of players and ever-evolving Pan’s Labyrinth-ian props. However, next time it may be better if the band scaled back the theatrics and focused a bit more on what it does best: play music.

—text and photo by Maureen Coulter