of Montreal and Christina Schneider’s Jepto Solutions at The Bluebird Theater on April 20, 2017 in Denver, CO

of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes

Barely making it across the busy street of Colfax, a drag queen stumbles towards the Bluebird Theater in high heels. She joins a line of girls in shorts and rainbow colors leggings smoking cigarettes. I stood next to them waiting for the doors to open overhearing their theory of the social benefits of smoking. Through the nicotine haze, I recognized other of Montreal fans that I see every time the psychedelic show comes to the Mile High City.  In front of the line, a girl in a micro silver skirt that was so enamored with the band’s last performance she flew to of Montreal’s hometown of Athens, Georgia for their Halloween show.  A video game clerk brought his elderly parents to the show for their third time. The three friends that always dress in theme for every show (once in kimonos, next in drag, and this time in matching 420 inspired tie-dye). You might think the crowd sounds more interesting than the performance. But the music starts, and you attention goes right to the leader of the freak show Kevin Barnes.

of Montreal – All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess

Entering the stage in a blonde wig and red crop-top skirt ensemble, Kevin Barnes sang the verse, “Am I on the verge of a really big breakthrough or just another meltdown?” from the song Gratuitous Abysses from last year’s album release Innocence Reaches Long time keyboardist Jojo Gladwell dressed in a Togo and guitarist Bennett Lewis in western wear held the music together as chaos ruled in front of the stage.  The back screen elevated the performance by displaying psychedelic images through the set. But that’s not where the visual stimulation stopped. Masked characters made appearances throughout the show.

Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It)

Transforming into a long flowing white gown with moving images eliminating him, Barnes did his version of Marlene Dietrich’s Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It). Two masked females frolicked around him with flowing ribbons making the 1930’s song strangely erotic. Opening act Christina Schneider was identified as one of the dancers with a hole in her sock. I guess the high concept art show didn’t have much of a budget for stockings.

of Montreal with masked theatrics

During Let’s Relate a masked dominatrix came out with a whip. Kevin Barnes and her “related” in the middle of the keyboard solo knocking out some of the instruments.  During the song ID Engager, a wrestler wearing an American Flag and another wrestler draped in the Russian Flag started to flight. But another masked wrestler in a rainbow flag brought them together to kiss. Maybe Kevin Barnes can assist in our strained foreign affairs with similar results.  

of Montreal

Bassem Sabry, named after the deceased Egyptian Revolution journalist, was the most powerful song of the night. Backed by images of this year’s Women’s March, Barnes sang, “People disappear on the wrong side of this revolution/When they’ll return, all their childhood memories are dead.”  Since the lyrics are sung with such a happy melody, it became extremely haunting.  At the end of the chorus, Kevin Barnes declared, “Every leader is a cellophane punk/If you hear me say yeah!” Of course, the crowd repeated “Yeah” again and again with delight. Not really sure if the deep lyrics reached the crowd celebrating 420 from the guy in a dress.  But it was a powerful moment.

Christina Schneider’s Jepto Solutions

Opening band Christina Schneider’s Jepto Solutions can be described as beat poetry over deconstructed guitar chords backed by an improvisational guitarist and drummer. Christian Schneider appeared drained with dark circles underneath her eyes looking like a grown up hippie version of Wednesday Adams.  The cause could be related to bassist Zach Phillips leaving the band one day before their Denver debut leaving the band without a key element to their sound.

I look forward to a reunion with the spontaneous traveling girl, the video game clerk with his parents, and the matching costume wearing trio the next time of Montreal comes to town with their psychedelic performance art theatrics.

See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one wondering what a cellophane punk is.

Regina Spektor at the Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, Colorado on 3/29/17

Regina Spektor

Waiting to go into the venue on Wednesday night, fans of Regina Spektor surrounded me.  I mean FANS. The young man behind me flew in from Kansas City just for the show. The teenage girls ahead of me in dresses and quirky shoes (just like Spektor wears) were reciting her lyrics like Shakespeare. When I entered the Fillmore Auditorium, a shiny black Steinway & Sons grand piano stood center stage. The sold out crowd started to chant her name. There was no opener. Just her.

Regina Spektor began studying classical piano when she was six. At the age of nine, her education was interrupted briefly while she migrated with her family to the United States from the former Soviet Union. Spektor later added her beautiful voice and original lyrics to her classical piano playing.  She has been a unique presence in popular music for over a decade.

Regina Spektor – All photos by the
Rock and Roll Princess

Dressed in a simple black dress and bright orange and red shoes, Regina Spektor took the stage with an infectious smile.  She sat down at the grand piano to perform a remarkable evening of music. It was like being at a giant piano recital with a loud adoring audience. Her angelic voice and outstanding piano playing came together to form a brilliant sound.

Her lyrics were sometimes philosophical. For example, Older And Taller state, “Enjoy your youth/Sounds like a threat.” At times, the verses were about mythological places.  Case in point, Grand Hotel describes, “Somewhere below the grand hotel/There is a tunnel that leads straight to hell/But no one comes up for the souls anymore/They come for some comfort and for the dance floor.” Other songs detail her personal life. For instance, Fidelity describes, “I hear in my mind/All of these voices/I hear in my mind/All of this music/And it breaks my heart.”

Regina Spektor and Yoed Nir

Regina Spektor’s backing band added more dynamics to the sound. Yoed Nir, an Israeli born cellist who has played on over 500 albums, was a perfect match to Spektor’s classical piano playing. Brad Whitely on the keyboard allowed her to occasionally leave the 88 keys and dance while rapping to her song Small Bill$.  Mathias Kunzil played the drums reminding the audience it was a rock concert after all.

Regina Spektor demonstrating free speech

Regina Spektor got political and discussed her opinion about the new presidential administration. An audience member later complained on Twitter about her “ranting politics” making him and his fiancé leave the show early.  Spektor replied, “You sound like a lovely person. If your fiancé is half as lovely as you = perfect match.  PS This refugee believes in free speech & love too.” Spektor used her impassioned dialogue as an introduction to the song, Ballad of a Politician. Surprisingly the song was written in 2012.

The majority of the set list was from her newest album Remember Us to Life inspired partially by the birth of her son. Surprisingly a large portion of the audience knew all the words. At one point, Spektor caught the audience singing and broke into laughter making her restart a verse. The sound of jail bars slamming shut queued the start of the theme song You’ve Got Time from Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (Yes. I know you have heard that song while bing watching that women prison series). Regina Spektor apologized for having her back to the audience for the majority of the show.  She pointed to the piano and explained, “But I have this thing.”

Right before Spektor Curtsied

Near the end of the night Regina Spektor played the closing track from Remember Us to Life appropriately titled The Visit singing, “I’m so glad that you stop in/And I had some things to say/But now they’ve been forgotten/They’ll get said a different way.” She closed with audience favorite’s FidelityHotel Song and Samson from her 2006 break-though album Begin to Hope.

Before Spektor walked off the stage, she curtsied to the audience like she probably did during her numerous years of piano recitals.

See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one in the bright orange and red quirky shoes.