Bringing some much needed heat and noise to the lonesome streets of downtown Madison Monday night, Wolf Parade played to a packed house at the Majestic. The event attracted a substantial crowd that packed into the Capital Square venue, filling the few open spaces left between the stage and the front door by the time Wolf Parade took the stage.
Listening Party played a brief set first and created a unique tone for the night from the first resonant drum beat. The trio’s percussion-rooted fusion of crunching indie-rock and tribal syncopations sounded just experimental enough to introduce a blog-friendly band like Wolf Parade and made for quite the visual show as well. Listening Party’s vocalist danced around his eclectic set of colorful drums jovially for much of the band’s set and prompted the audience to sing along as he hammered his way though one audience-rousing afro-beat track after another. Listening Party finished with a bluesy Brit-funk droner that segued smoothly into the abrupt clamor of Wolf Parade’s pleasing assault on Madison ears.
But as good as Listening Party was, Wolf Parade was even better at filling the Majestic and getting many of those excited patrons to dance wildly at their feet. Opening with “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son,” the Montreal quintet played similarly rhythmic material — enough to quickly set the crowd bouncing in time with that first song’s pulsing beat. The theater’s metronome-steady on and of lighting matched Wolf Parade’s style perfectly, enhancing much more than is normally expected at the typical colorfully lit concert. By the end of the band’s first offering, Wolf Parade’s intense sense of cabaret-rhythm actually had the audience roaring.
Wolf Parade’s sometimes trance-inducing breakdowns, growling guitars, bouncy rhythms and shrieked vocals work best live, as the complexity of their music is much more apparent with multiple keyboards and the guitarist right there on stage. Both vocalists played their instruments with volatile enthusiasm — Spencer Krug striking his keyboard with flying arms and the other, Dan Boeckner, swinging his guitar in time with each song’s furious tempo.
Unfortunately, Wolf Parade’s sense of humor and taste for the lyrically bizarre weren’t clear Monday as their vocals — like at many concerts — were overwhelmed by instrumentation. With songs dedicated to films like “Predator,” it would have been nice to hear a bit more of what Wolf Parade had to say, but the audience just screamed riotously after every song.
In fact, both Madison’s attendees and Wolf Parade looked thrilled to be there and seemed to enjoy every minute of the show. This year’s “California Dreamer,” a song based off the Mamas and the Papas hit, found the band at their best, and each member’s grin-concluded performance was followed by more riotous applause.
Wolf Parade held out unusually long before coming back on stage for the traditional encore — unable to say no to a crowd that got louder and louder so the show would continue. After a few swigs from a liquor bottle, the parched performers took up their instruments once again. But Wolf Parade’s closing remarks before playing a few final songs suggest the honest gratitude of a band as humble as it is talented. Wolf Parade didn’t just satisfy Monday’s fans — it thrilled them. Yet all they had to say was, “Thanks, guys.” If only every downtown concert left both the audience and the band as happy to be in ice-cold Madison.