Wolf Parade triumphantly returned to New York in support of their recently released Expo 86 on July 13
. 2009 was a busy year for members of the band as Spencer Krug’s solo project Sunset Rubdown released an album as did Dan Boeckner’s Handsome Furs. While I liked At Mount Zoomer and its spacier leanings, I was eagerly anticipating the band’s latest release. Expo 86 is the band’s best work yet. Combining many positives from their first two albums. Their new songs blended seamlessly with their older hits. All in all, a great night of music that started with Zola Jesus, continued with Moools, and emphatically ended with Wolf Parade.
Zola Jesus is beginning to be build a bit of hype and it’s easy to see why. The project of Nika Roza Danilova, the band plays a brand of melodramatic dance/pop that is weighty and evocative. With vocals similar to Victoria Legrand of Beach House, the petite Danilova lets her voice soar bringing an intensely intimate yet rich feel to the proceedings. The band did not wilt at all in the rather large Terminal 5 thanks to the vocals, Danilova’s stage presence as she posed and strolled around the stage (eventually climbing some speakers), and strong backing band. The driven and progressive beats of the band worked well, although a live drummer would push the band to the next level allowing Danilova’s vocals to play off of something equally bombastic. The restrained sense of energy sounds urgent thanks to the great production. It was an excellent introduction to the band and definitely had people talking and eager to find out more after the show.
The contrast couldn’t be greater between Zola Jesus and Moools who were up next. The Japanese rock trio aligned more to Wolf Parade’s rock sensibilities and their set was one that had a lot of personality, charm, and great music compared to Zola Jesus’ stoic charm. The band looked like they were having a blast playing with some energetic playing and great jamming. The tight rhythm section let the excellent guitar work spiral off, much like Sonic Youth. Good music overcomes any language barrier and this was no exception. Each song had great personality that was matched in musicality. The lead singer and guitarist attempted to reach out into the audience in very broken English and made a joke about the merch being heavy and that they should buy it. Another bit of of fun included the lead singer getting a harmonica and was fussing around with it just to use it fo one note. The fun soloing and noisy well-crafted rock were a highlight and the band was a very nice surprise.
As great as the supporting acts were, the time finally came for Wolf Parade to hit the stage. Kicking off the night with “Soldier’s Grin”, the band staked their claim as one of the most exhilarating and interesting indie rock outfits working. Aside from the successful projects and time away from Wolf Parade, it is clear that the band has only gained from that time apart. The songs off of Expo 86 are smartly realized and the band’s chemistry came across loud and clear on stage. The four members make quite the fury on stage. Krug centers the focus as the twin attack of Boeckner and Dante DeCaro on guitar flanked him. The secret weapon has to be Arlen Thompson as he is fantastic behind the drum kit adding a thunderous presence to the proceedings.
“What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)” was the first new track and it showcased the great craft of the band. The songs were allowed to breathe, pulsate, and live in their natural setting. The songs are energetic and bombastic and the energy was evident as the crowd bounced and rocked to each song. The band was humble, offering a multitude of thanks, appreciation, and love for playing New York. The night belonged to the new tracks which blended well into the older material but it seems like the new material brings the best out of the band.
The songs seem fuller, each member given more to do; the chemistry is there, spun into each note. You could definitely call it a more realized sound from the band, centering the ambitious At Mount Zoomer with the intensity of All Apologies to the Queen Mary. The extended segues and bridges rarely meandered or and pushed forward itha sense of purpose. Krug’s and Boeckner’s vocals carry plenty of weight and are more similar live than on record, allowing for easier transitions between the two leads.
“Cave-o-Sapien”, following the concussive ending of “Fine Young Cannibals”, allowed the band to have fun. The prog-leaning romp that revels in the blistering intensity is a direct result of the amazing chemistry of the band. The second half of the set brought out the heavy hitters including “This Heart’s on Fire”, “I’ll Believe in Anything” and “Little Golden Age.” Each song was bigger than the last as “I’ll Believe in Anything” roared to a finish, the crushing and buzzing drums of of Thompson bullied the crowd and made “Little Golden Age”, which Boeckner introduced as a song about growing up in a small town and the danger of nostalgia, even better. “California Dreamer” was noisier, adding an edge that was missing in the pristine recording. “Pobody Nerfect” closed out the main set.
For the encore, the band kicked off with “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain”, which Krug had a little trouble with as he had some fun correcting himself after the song was finished. “Shine a Light” gains new life thanks to the attention given to it live. It’s intense and shares a richness more in common with other tracks from their catalog. The night ended with a great take of “Kissing the Beehive” which the band built up to a staggering close.
Although the band may have played better sometime in the past, I wasn’t there and the band delivered the goods at Terminal 5. Wolf Parade are more than the sum of their parts with the great synth work, vocals, guitar, drumming, and ambitious direction everything is in place and it’s fun just watching Wolf Parade put all the pieces together. Expo 86 was a home run of an album and combined with their great live show, Wolf Parade is one of the best bands in rock today.
Wolf Parade Set list
What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)
Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts
In the Direction of the Moon
Fine Young Cannibals
This Heart’s On Fire
I’ll Believe in Anything
Little Golden Age
Cloud Shadow on the Mountain
Shine A Light
Kissing the Beehive
More photos after the jump