Published Nov 22, 2015When the PAs stopped playing classical music, the lights went out and a pair of day-glo'd street-style dancers arrived onstage to interpret "Laughing and not being normal."
Then, bass rumbled the Metropolis, and Claire Boucher, wearing a Motörhead shirt and a foot cast (Did she hurt it on tour?), took to her camouflage-netted gear to begin "Circumambient," triggering samples and running to the stage front to join her dancers and dance with the crowd. She screamed into the mic — she's been working on that — for the song's finale before kicking into "Genesis," now more a full-blown party anthem than the sweet, wispy song from Visions. The dancers treated it as such, too, hyping up the crowd and twirling ribbons.
Maybe it was, as she pointed out, that M for Montreal put on some of her first shows in Montreal, or that it was there that she "learned to make music," but there was a palpable feeling that this show marked the ending of an artist coming full-circle. Though I've seen Grimes a handful of times before, last night's (November 21) M for Montreal/Blues Skies Turn Black show, part of her Rhinestone Cowgirls tour, was a triumphant step forward from her previous performances; it was also her first hometown show since releasing her statement-making new album, Art Angels, and she smiled widely throughout it.
She's still seemingly the same down to earth person, though; as she mistakenly triggered the next song, she said "Shit!" into the echo-effected mic: "Shit, shit, shit, shit…" The bass, on next song "Venus Fly" and throughout the show, could be a little on the punishing side — from where I was standing, at least, it was literally skull-rattling, and sometimes drowned out the other sound — but otherwise, the mix was perfect: the highs and mids were crisp, and Boucher herself sounded great, despite warning that her falsetto isn't currently in the best shape before playing "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)" and "Realiti."
In the context of the new performance and album, the former felt a little thin, demonstrating just how far Grimes has come as a producer since 2011; she brought a crew of her Montreal friends, including Daniel from Moon King, to dance onstage for the latter, on which her falsetto managed the lofty heights of the verses with seeming ease.
With no Aristophanes, Grimes rapped in Russian herself for "Scream," as smoke billowed behind her, but it was "Go" that really made its mark on the night. The song, which was originally and bafflingly decried by critics upon its release last year, has more context now, and was an absolute highlight, the kind of centerpiece you hang a set on. If there were holdouts in the audience, it didn't show — with the exception of the encore, "Go" was undeniably the show highlight, the crowd bouncing along, arms in the air to celebrate the song's effervescent chorus.
"I spruced it up a little bit," she remarked before playing a remixed version of "Be a Body," giving it a synth-flute melody line and protracting the wait for the chorus. She added a tension-building intro to "Oblivion," too, making good on promises that she'd be updating her Visions material to sound better amongst her new material. After thanking her dancers, she introduced "Phone Sex," an underrated, steel pan-aided pop gem she concocted with Blood Diamonds in 2012 whose chorus melody she updated slightly.
Out of shyness, she asked the crowd directly if she could just skip to her encore, as the wait tended to give her anxiety. She needn't have worried; after the single encore performance, "Kill v. Maim," the crowd would clap and stomp the floor in vain for her to return, even after the house lights went up.
The Art Angels highlight, already a fan-favourite, was the perfect closer, a final release for the audience, and at the exact second after the song ended, Boucher met the crowd's reaction with a final, excited outburst of her own: "Holy fuck!"