French band Air play impressive show in Montreal.
On the unlikeliest of nights, a Monday, I was lucky enough to have convinced a friend to come check out the AIR concert at the Metropolis in Montreal. It wasn't that difficult, as tickets were only $40 after tax and service charges, a bargain considering what most shows cost you these days. We arrived just before 8pm when opening act AM took the stage.
There was something tragic about the self conscious hipsters, which seemed to bespeak something larger about a music industry that lacked any conviction whatsoever, a soulless amalgam of focus group tests from some cynical record label in LA. Although Montreal is known for being a giving crowd, they weren't giving to AM. I remember interpreting the crowd's rushed applause as cheering the fact that there was one less song to endure more than a demonstration of appreciation.
After a short break, AIR took the stage at 9pm to great excitement. Dressed in white tuxedo shirts and matching ties, the perfectly fitting clothing was a slightly relaxed version of Kraftwerk's no nonsense look. Their demeanor was towards the affectless but still warm, similar to how one might describe their music. The performance opened with "Do the Joy," the first song from Love 2 (2009), AIR's best album in my opinion. They played two more tracks from the same LP and the melodies got the crowd moving. From that point on, they mixed it up between classics and more recent songs. Considering the fact that there were only three musicians on the stage (including the live drummer), it was impressive to hear so much sound being generated from so few people, and yet there was never really a sense that they were using computers; even the samples they played seemed to be triggered on the fly from synthesizers.
Though both frontmen had strong stage presences, one couldn’t help but be particularly impressed by the keyboardist moving between at least four synths, often playing two at once and singing simultaneously. Most of all, he made it look totally effortless, giving the impression that this is something he's been doing from a very young age. Another charming aspect of the show was the technician who would appear between songs to reprogram the analog synth (what looked like a Korg MS-20), a testament to the power of these pre-digital boxes, as it was easily the most prominent sounding instrument in their sonic arsenal. Most of the songs were sung by the keyboardist, though the bass player led on a couple of tracks.
Overall, it was a fun and cool concert (well worth the price) and it had a nice lightness about it. Perhaps because of the low cost and the fact th at it was on a weeknight, it had a sense of being a no big deal, fun night on the town, a kind of innocence that's often lacking at the bigger shows. They ended the main set with “Kelly Watch the Stars,” while a game of Pong poetically played on the large videoscreen in the background. Interestingly, they opened the encore with a song they composed for the Virgin Suicides soundtrack, which they dedicated to Kirsten Dunst who was in the audience (see video below).
The encore finished with classic hits from Moon Safari, “Sexy Boy” and “La Femme D’Argent”. They bowed, waved goodbye and the Montreal crowd gave them a hearty send off. It’s worth mentioning how the staff at Metropolis sped people through the coat check and onto the street with lightning-like efficiency, something you really appreciate when you're one of a few thousand people that all want the same thing. My friend and I took a taxi home, and, amazingly, when I got back and looked at the clock on the stove, it was only 10:59pm. Not bad for a Monday night.