Montreal’s Wolf Parade has always been a kid brother of sorts to the grandiose, oversize Canadian groups like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. Over the years, though, Wolf Parade has shown an ability to take a four-piece and make it sound as loud and overstated as the other heavy hitters within their genre. Friday’s show at the Fox Theater put that overblown energy on display, taking the heavily structured guitar lines and harmonies from the bands records and detonating them into a wall of organic sound.
One of the criticisms often thrown at Wolf Parade is that they seldom operate as “a band.” And it’s not unfounded. Most Wolf Parade albums feature two main songwriters, singer Spencer Krug (originally of Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown), and guitarist Dan Boeckner (of Atlas Strategic and the Handsome Furs). During concerts they alternate as frontmen, playing songs that they wrote individually and then brought to the band. This concert was no different, but the collaborative song trading seemed less incongruous than critics would make it out to be. Instead of separate writing styles, Krug and Boeckner brought their writing tendencies into a louder, grungier unison. Krug’s keyboard lines were complicated enough to drive the songs that he’d written, but also to fall into the background and serve as ornamentation in Boeckner’s songs. Meanwhile, Boeckner and guitarist/bassist Dante DeCaro had enough punch in their strings to throw down Black Sabbath-style riffs in the background of Krug songs like “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain,” or to keep the style lighter on Boeckner’s poppier, guitar-driven material. The overall effect was that of a band, not two distinct entities.
The set list included a very balanced collection of material from the band’s three records, though Wolf Parade did manage to sneak in eight tracks off the latest record, Expo 86. The strongest tracks, though, mainly stemmed from the band’s first album, Apologies to the Queen Mary. Notable among these was “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts.” An inordinate amount of fans seemed to know when to shout the tragically Krug-ian line God doesn’t always have the best goddamn plans. Then came the one-two punch of Boeckner’s “This Heart’s on Fire” and Krug’s “I’ll Believe in Anything.” The song that stole the show, however, was “California Dreamer,” from the album At Mount Zoomer, a seven-minute epic whose violent push and pull ended the main set with intensity not heard on the song’s original recording.
Although Wolf Parade is still widely considered to be an emerging band in the indie scene, a crowded Fox Theater floor and raucous, memorable live set alludes to the heights that this band may ultimately achieve.