Kongos + The Man Who @ L’Astral – 26th January 2019

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kongos in montreal

I’m starting to think that maybe I am jinxing bands.  Last Wednesday, both The End Of The Ocean and Tides Of Man were almost 4 hours late to Casa Del Popolo on account of the insane freezing rain that bombarded us.  And now tonight, its Kongos who are suffering.  Rear-ended at 4am on the way out of Toronto, they scrambled together U-Hauls and vans at short notice, and finally made it to Montreal around 8pm… and went straight to soundcheck.  By the time the crowd is let into l’Astral and the opener takes the stage, its 9.35pm, over an hour and a half later than advertised.  Despite the chaos, the show is a resounding success.

the man who band

Drafted in at short notice to replace the original openers, Toronto 3-piece The Man Who do an admirable job.  Their brand of moody alternative is a little like the quieter moments of Imagine Dragons, musically and vocally, and is well received.  At one point, the drummer asks “are you ready for Kongos?!” to which one guy in the crowd shouts “not yet!”  They’re grateful for the reception too; the frontman enthuses “thanks for the attention, we realize we’re a new band and you don’t know any of the songs!”  They close with a pretty anthemic number (which I assume was called Something To Believe; he sang that line a lot) to close out a solid 35-minute debut.

the man who montreal
kongos l'astral

A couple of old-school Dr Dre songs finally herald the arrival of Phoenix’s Kongos on stage.  You’d expect them to be a little weary and ragged after the day they’ve had.  On the contrary, fresh-faced and ready to go, they dive right into the tribal I Am Not Me from the brand new “1929, Pt. 1” record, led by Accordion player Jonny, with his brothers Dylan (bass), Jesse (drums) and Daniel (Guitar) providing note-perfect harmonies.  Daniel assumes lead vocals on next song, the funky The World Would Run Better, and then Jesse is up next on Take It From Me.  After a brief summary of the days insanity (“we made it by the skin of our teeth!”), Dylan takes lead vocals on brand new song When You’re Here.  4 songs in, 4 different lead vocalists; the Kongos family are sure a talented bunch!

Dylan’s accordion sounds positively Parisian on Take Me Back, before the deep tribal drums return on Keep Your Head, both of which are prime examples of the sound which you have come to associate with the band 4 albums into their career.  However, new song Something New, “which is ironic, as it was written in 2005,” (according to Jesse) is a radical departure from that sound, and sees the band exploring electronica territory.  And it sounds great!  Underground follows, which morphs seamlessly into the thumping Hey I Don’t Know, which culminates in a big clap along incited by Jesse and a dazzling accordion solo by Jonny, who then busts out eerie Kraftwerk-like keys on Stand Up.  He even sports a Chromeo-esque vocoder on Everything Must Go, which Dylan sings with some ferocity, likely due to the memories of the bad record deal they just escaped (as he related to the crowd just before the song!).

Come With Me Now unsurprisingly gets the biggest cheer of the night so far, as a sea of phones take to the sky to capture the moment, and a section of the floor even pogos!  After the vocoder returns for I Want To Know, new single Pay For The Weekend and Birds Do It close out the main set.

After the briefest of pauses, the band returns to the stage for an encore and Dylan explains that this is their 5th time in Montreal; “the first time was at Divan Orange in 2012 to 4 people, so it’s nice be here having people sing every song.”  Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles is then given a thorough Kongos remix,  complete with a rapper who appears on-stage midway through the song out of nowhere!  I’m Only Joking provides a thunderous conclusion to the 80-minute set, and much of the crowd pogos away the last of their energy, before the band leaves the stage for good just before midnight.  What could have easily been a gig cancellation is instead an absolute triumph; well played, Kongos.

I Am Not Me
The World Would Run Better
Take It From Me
When You’re Here
Take Me Back
Keep Your Head
Something New
Hey I Don’t Know
Stand Up
Everything Must Go
I Don’t Mind
Come With Me Now
I Want To Know
Pay For The Weekend
Birds Do It

Eleanor Rigby
I’m Only Joking

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Eric Brisson

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