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Of Montreal's concert out of this world

November 25, 2008|By KACEY KEITH and HARLEY HARRISON / Pulse correspondents

Being the leader and mastermind behind one of indie rock's most prominent bands often means having to consistently reinvent and revise your sound.

In order to keep up with a genre that is flooded with new bands, you have to be different so that your band is ahead of the pack and can stand out in the ever-growing crowd.

Kevin Barnes, the mastermind behind the band of Montreal, has proven that he is more than up to the task.

On of Montreal's 2007 album "Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer?," Barnes introduced listeners to Georgie Fruit, an eccentric Prince-meets-Ziggy Stardust alter ego he created for himself.

On of Montreal's October 2008 release "Skeletal Lamping," Barnes has brought back Georgie Fruit and has even gone one step further by taking Georgie on the road.

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Regrettably, we passed on their Oct. 9 show at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club because it was on a weeknight. However, after reading tons of great reviews for their "Ninjas Prove It" tour - and especially after seeing the wild pictures people who had gone to shows have posted - we decided that it would be worth the 170-plus mile trip to their only other show in the area at The National in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 1. We will never regret that decision!

What did we see? A 1930s vaudeville show and 1960s psychedelic festival mixed together in a 1970s glam rock and funk blender that got poured into a circus tent somewhere in the early 1980s.

Eccentric, eclectic and, most of all, over-the-top do not even begin to cover it. They had a six-piece band with two drummers on tall platforms, a keyboardist on her own third platform and the remaining members on the stage itself.

Oh, did we forget to mention the more than eight people who while dressed as elephants, pigs, chickens, large gold Buddas, Darth Vader, ninjas and silver John McCains in long black robes, were doing intentionally poorly choreographed dances, mock fighting and acting out skits on the stage among the band?

All this while three large video screens, which took up the entire span of the stage, projected random pictures and wild animated bits designed to go along with all of the songs. The best part though were the skits and scenes where Barnes himself played the lead character.

In a somewhat relaxed and thoroughly casual way, Barnes played out dozens of roles over the course of the show. At various times through the show he was a cerebus, a Catholic Cardinal, who was brought on stage in a giant rickshaw; dressed like Prince in a purple suit with frilly white blouse and a sombrero; wore a giant fanny pack half the size of his body and was brought out in a coffin completely covered in shaving cream. However, for a long portion of the show Barnes was not too wildly dressed. Actually, he was barely wearing anything more than a coat of red paint and a shiny gold Speedo.

It might all sound insane, over the top and maybe even a little over done, but all of the performances, sets and costumes were done in an intentionally low budget way - sort of like a high school musical. Absolutely not THE "High School Musical we keep hearing about, but like an actual high school musical. Not too much flash or glamour - just fun.

The show was beyond our wildest expectations.

Even though we had listened to almost nothing other than of Montreal for the entire summer, watched thousands of camera phone videos of the shows on YouTube, seen thousands of pictures online and listened to a stream of the entire show we missed from the 9:30 Club on National Public Radio's Web site, we were thrilled by it all - even though we knew what we were getting ourselves into and had big expectations.

The concert may not the sort of thing that everybody would be into or get that excited about, because it's not the sort of stuff you see going on in rock shows every day.

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