Auf der Maur O Patro Vys, Montreal QC - November 1

Melissa Auf der Maur has never fronted a band, and it shows. She's played the role of bassist/back-up singer for over ten years, first with Montreal's Tinker, then famously with Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins. Before her current band, she briefly led a Black Sabbath cover band called Hand of Doom, playing a handful of shows as Ozzy. But she's properly front and centre with this eponymous project, handling lead vocals and bass while the rest of the quintet rock darkly on guitars, keys and drums, building a heavy-handed sound in line with the grungy rock MADM is associated with. The faults lie in the lyrics — quasi-teenage poetry dotted with half-baked prog-rock fantasy — and the vocals, which manage to be feeble and grating at once. Where most singers soften or stretch their accent, Auf der Maur retains flat, angular North American inflections; her talky style boosted with extra reverb and volume in the mic. In equally awkward between-song banter, she encouraged us to close our eyes and picture medieval scenes of horses, Vikings, pyramids or aliens to psyche us up for the next number, and she seemed nonplussed towards the end of the set, as songs drew reserved applause from an increasingly restless crowd. Not surprisingly, she looked most comfortable backing away from the mic, literally bending back in that bass dip she's perfected, but with a star-studded album in the can and an audience in the bag, she's got the time and money (and probably the ability) to improve as a front-woman; it's just unfortunate that she has to do it in public.