CONCERT REVIEW: Wolf Parade at Mohawk - 1/26/18

Words by: Adam Wood

Pictures by: Stephanie Tacy

Edited by: Clinton Camper

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Every concert offers the opportunity to experience a particular subculture or counterculture at its purest. This is part of what I’ve always found so compelling about live music: the possibility to step into a new world, even one in which you feel you may not naturally belong, and for a few short, sweet hours make it your own. Though there are innumerable differences that divide every one of us (some more than others), not one seems to matter in the face of the unifying power of music. There are no enemies in the concert hall; there are no outsiders.

It seems to me that the world at large is in desperate need of this lesson; I know I did, at least, as I made my way to The Mohawk in Austin on Friday night. As I shuffled my way through an already-packed crowd, I certainly felt like an outsider: I was alone, everything from my clothes to my sparse facial hair screamed that I was fifteen years junior to everyone else, and the buzz of excitement in the air reminded me that this concert was a dream many people had waited years for, while I had happened to stumble into a ticket. I felt like a phony. Thankfully, a drink and a couple of friendly bursts of conversation relaxed my mind. The energy in the venue began to swell; animated by a funky and entrancing beat that electrified the room, it grew until the multi-tiered arena threatened to overflow. Then silence. And then Wolf Parade came on stage.

There was no air of bravado or extravagance to their entrance, just Dan Boeckner’s humble, almost shy promise of what was to come: “this is gonna be good.” With that, the quartet soared into the opening track of their latest (and hugely anticipated) album Cry Cry Cry. “Lazarus Online” was the perfect choice to ignite the audience: Spencer Krug’s dynamic, driving work on the keyboard anchored the song, allowing synths, guitar and drums to swirl nebulously around the resounding chorus of “Let’s fight/Let’s rage against the night.” With this defiant call to action left hanging halfway between a challenge and a promise, Wolf Parade embarked on a high-octane journey through records new and old and just about every emotion imaginable. And what a wild ride it was. The spacious restraint of “Soldier’s Grin” highlighted the spastic insanity of “Grounds For Divorce;” the shining, polished joy of “You’re Dreaming” and “Valley Boy” stood in perfect opposition to the cacophonous splendor of “Fine Young Cannibals.” Over the course of the night, Wolf Parade demonstrated a rare understanding and mastery of the art of balance: even at the height of their hectic, unrestrained glory, in the moments when the music seemed to possess and distort the band members, there was never any dissonance within the band or the music—or the crowd. There was always a method to the madness, a purpose for the protest. Even in the band’s darkest musical moments, like during “King of Piss and Paper” (a song that Krug emphatically devoted to our “big baby-faced leader), victorious synths fluttered above a mire of noise and frustration, a single ray of hope bursting through a wall of pure anger. It was around this consistent note of hope that the crowd unified and became one, entranced by the resoundingly pure energy that emanated from the instruments and figures onstage. The show reached its triumphant climax with “I’ll Believe In Anything,” an exhilarating anthem demanding that we fight against the dark night. Though their encore was a frantic, almost primal wave of sound that carried the audience into a contented conclusion, it will certainly be “I’ll Believe In Anything” that sticks with us into tomorrow, next year and beyond. In an era when we all desperately need something to believe in, Wolf Parade gave us all something tangible, something real, to believe in.

Set List:

1.      Lazarus Online

2.     Soldier’s Grin (?)

3.     Grounds for Divorce

4.     You’re Dreaming

5.     Valley Boy

6.     Incantation

7.     Fine Young Cannibals

8.     Baby Blue

9.     Flies on the Sun

10.  King of Piss and Paper

11.  This Heart’s On Fire

12.  I’ll Believe In Anything

13.  ENCORE: Cloud Shadow on the Mountain

14.  Shine a Light

15.  Kissing the Beehive