Review: Wolf Parade; July 20, 2008 at Canes; San Diego

Wolf Parade - July 20, 2008

It was Sunday night at Canes and indie rock heroes Wolf Parade were about to perform, yet the crowd didn’t seem excited at all. The stripped down guitar and tribal trashcan percussion of opening duo Listening Party had been received with polite but moderate enthusiasm by an audience where those wearing backwards hats and polo shirts vastly outnumbered the people with the tight jeans and flat-ironed hair. As the crowd quietly milled about the venue between sets, it seemed as though Wolf Parade could expect a similarly tepid reaction. But when the Montreal quintet finally took the stage and the first notes rang out from the amps, they were met with a fanatical and frenzied reception that was anything but lukewarm.

Beginning their set with “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” and “Soldier’s Grin”, the opening tracks off 2005’s Apologies To The Queen Mary and 2008’s At Mount Zoomer, respectively, Wolf Parade were a well-oiled machine, nimbly maneuvering their songs’ wild mood swings and ever-changing time signatures without missing a beat.

Cherubic vocalist Spencer Krug made for an unassuming stage presence, practically hiding behind his synthesizer as the rest of the band bathed in the spotlight, the band’s new self-described Marxist approach to writing and performing clearly in full bloom. Out of everybody in the group, singer/guitarist Dan Boeckner was the closest thing to a front man, singing lead on virtually every song from At Mount Zoomer, while Krug took the reins mainly on the Apologies To The Queen Mary songs.

Wolf Parade - July 20, 2008

As distinctive as Krug’s trademark quivering delivery is, it was surprising to see just how similar Krug and Boeckner’s voices actually are. The two vocalists, backed up by guitarist Dante DeCaro’s third-part harmonies, seamlessly took turns dominating the microphone. But despite their similarities, Boeckner was never quite able to match the emotion that Krug’s shivering voice brings to a song. A similar problem had befallen At Mount Zoomer, which, though comprised of clever compositions and a kinetic atmosphere, still felt oddly inconsequential when compared to the gravitas of Queen Mary, on which Krug’s presence had been far more prevalent.

If the crowd felt any ambivalence toward the band’s new material, they sure didn’t show it. Songs like “Fine Young Cannibals”, “Call It A Ritual”, and the sprawling eleven-minute epic “Kissing The Beehive” were all met with thunderous roars and applause from the enraptured audience, who sang along to each song as if they’d been listening to them all their lives. But as good as these performances were, it was Queen Mary-era songs like “Grounds For Divorce”, “Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts”, and “I’ll Believe In Anything” that displayed Wolf Parade’s full potential, showcasing what the band are capable of when their material possesses enough emotional depth to rival their bottomless technical skill.

Photos by Yolanda Bustos.

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