Wolf Parade speak to some people in a really intense way, and it’s easy to see why.
There’s something to be said about the fact that Montreal’s Wolf Parade only broke up for five years, from 2011 (following the release of Expo 86, their third album) to 2016, but it was still long enough for their fan base to miss them immensely. When the band came back to play Pickathon Music Festival in 2016, both of their sets were met by crowds overjoyed and sometimes bordering on apoplexy; good-natured, respectable pillars of the community were in a frenzy I don’t get to see nearly enough. As such, I wasn’t shocked that the crowd at their Crystal Ballroom performance—nearly eight years after their last performance in the space—was similarly overjoyed; Wolf Parade speak to some people in a really intense way, and it’s easy to see why.
Wolf Parade have a bizarre charm. Both singer Dan Boeckner and co-singer Spencer Krug have voices that could easily be described as “yelpy.” With it, they rule the stages they perform on with a nervous energy that works surprisingly well with the ramshackle quasi-dance punk aesthetic they’ve curated since their breakthrough debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary. They brought that aesthetic to bear in this show, with a setlist spanning all four of their albums, leaning heavily on last year’s underrated reunion album, Cry Cry Cry. To the crowd’s credit, Cry Cry Cry songs like “Weaponized” and “You’re Dreaming” garnered the same overjoyed reactions as “I’ll Believe in Anything,” “Fine Young Cannibals” and their can’t-fail closer, “This Heart’s on Fire.”
There’s no doubt about why the band came back: they clearly have too much fun to stay away. The Crystal Ballroom is a special space for Wolf Parade, as the constantly-smiling Boeckner noted near the end of the night. “This was the first place we played in North America,” he said to delighted cheers. If there’s one thing Portland crowds love, it’s when bands from elsewhere confess their legitimate love for the spaces in Portland that they play in, and if you go back to the very beginning of their touring career, this is the only place they’ve played in Portland, outside of the aforementioned Pickathon. Boeckner’s smile was infectious, as he beamed uncontrollably at the sound of the crowd’s ecstatic response to every song played.
The songs of Wolf Parade have become so dear to people’s hearts, and seeing new ones so easily embraced makes it easy to forget they were ever gone. Outside of the joy of being able to play this music, it’s hard to say what brought the band back. One thing’s for certain, though: there is no cash-grab element here; this is a band that came back hungry, and I don’t see them going anywhere for a very long time.