Parquet Courts + Mdou Moctar @ Corona Theatre – 18 March 2022

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Parquet Courts Montreal

The timing of the return of live music to our city seems to coincide almost perfectly with the arrival of Spring; a packed-out Corona Theatre on this Friday night suggests everyone is ready to emerge from this Omicron-driven hibernation with a bang!

Tonight’s opener, Mdou Moctar, the project of Niger-based musician Mahamadou Souleymane, is also ready to party.  Arriving on stage as a 4-piece in traditional African attire, they launch into 45 minutes of the most upbeat music that truly blows away the cobwebs of 4 months off the live-music wagon.  Described on Wikipedia as performing “modern adaptations of Tuareg guitar music,” it’s a carnival; imagine Tinariwen playing Animal Collective covers, and you’re getting close.  Mahamadou is grinning the entire time, stalking the edge of stage from time to time to wind up the crowd even more, and by the end of the set, Theatre Corona is grinning just as much.

Parquet Courts in Montreal

Parquet Courts then take the baton. Things start off in a somewhat moody fashion, with frontman Andrew Savage spitting lines like an 8-Mile rapper over the moody rumbling bassline of Application/Apparatus, before the mood is cut with the lo-fi Human Performance igniting the first of many raucous crowd singalongs tonight.  The mood returns with Dust and its Doors-esque Wurlitzer solo, the drums melting seamlessly into the incendiary riffs of Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience, the pit detonating upon arrival into the second half of that song.

The evolution of Parquet Courts over the years is evident throughout the set, but never more so than on Marathon Of Anger, from their most recent record, which sees Andrew ditch the guitar altogether in favour of a synth.  It’s a 4-minute slice of twinkly electronica that sounds more like Mdou Moctar than Parquet Courts, and a far cry from the thrashy guitars of Stoned And Starving all those years ago.  

A second set of drums of deployed to add extra punch to a mammoth Walking At A Downtown Pace, which sees the first crowd surfer of the night airborne, culminating in that mighty guitar solo of Andrews, before melting seamlessly into Wide Awake, complete with football whistles, which keep the floor throbbing. 

The main set closes with Homo Sapien and a reappearance from Mahamadou, who remains every bit as excited as earlier on, returning to the front of the stage to bait the crowd whilst simultaneously blazing out a huge guitar solo.  Afterwards, Bassist Sam Yeaton informs us that this was the first time Mahamadou had guested on this particular song of the set, but you would never know it, such is his seamless fit with the rest of the band.

Instead of leaving the stage, the band elects to keep things moving, with keyboardist Austin Brown mentioning “I think this might be the encore?!”  The mellow strum of Mardi Gras Beads affords all a moment to catch their breath, before Master of My Craft drums seamlessly into the classic Borrowed Time, which causes the pit to heave once more.  Pulcinella is a comparatively melancholy choice to close to the 90-minute show, but a perfect one.  A stellar return for Parquet Courts, and a perfect way to hop back on that live music wagon in 2022!

Setlist

  1. Application/Apparatus
  2. Human Performance
  3. Dust
  4. Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience
  5. Freebird II
  6. Marathon Of Anger
  7. Watching Strangers Smile
  8. Sympathy For Life
  9. Walking At A Downtown Pace
  10. Wide Awake
  11. Plant Life
  12. Light Up Gold II
  13. Homo Sapien
  14. Mardi Gras Beads
  15. What Color Is Blood
  16. Master Of My Craft
  17. Borrowed Time
  18. N Dakota
  19. Pulcinella

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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