Montero brought a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of intrigue to the Shipping Forecast as Getintothis’ Matthew Eland caught the quirky Aussie creative in a somewhat shambolic form.
Your initial reaction to the music of Montero might well be defined by the height of your tolerance threshold for whimsy, twee and seventies MOR.
Take, for example, the closing refrain from Montero Airlines, the opener from recent album Performer: “thank you for flying with Montero today/Got a first-class ticket going all the way“. It’s a line that even Flight of the Conchords might have balked at. He even has a Neil Young pastiche entitled Tokin’ The Night Away‘.
Then there are the cartoons. Over 54 thousand ‘grammers [NOTE: I am 32 and out of touch with the kids and this may not be the standard nomenclature used to describe users of this social network] follow the exploits of a cast of anthropomorphic characters, each with captions such as “Why am I so intense?” and “OK, just one more sad song…then bed” and “I’m losing it“. (Indeed, during his set Montero will tear pages from his sketchbook and hand them to punters in the front row in exchange for shots of whiskey.)
On first listen to the album, it all seems rather inconsequential, a straight homage to the golden age of woozy soft rock, all surface-level imitation. But the longer you live with these songs, a curious thing begins to happen. The “first-class ticket” refrain from Montero Airlines stops being an arch wink to coital success and instead becomes a celebration of intimate connection. During the repetition of Tokin’ The Night Away you realise not only that tongue has slipped from cheek but also that it mightn’t have been there in the first place; the slightly manic edge to the delivery hints at something darker.
In short, I was brought around from a place of cynicism to one of curiosity in the run-up to the gig. How would all this, I wondered, translate to Saturday night in The Shipping Forecast, with the great and the good of Liverpool donning their finest and heading to town in search of a good time?
But first, the support. Seatbelts (the side project of James and Ryan from Hooton Tennis Club) play their first ever gig with a hastily assembled line-up, and it shows. There’s a certain ramshackle charm to their odd arrangements and jaunty time changes, but the group could have done with more than the 48 hours they’d had to practice their set in.
Things pick up when the cowbell comes out, and the addition of two singers plucked from the crowd to provide Spanish vocals during the final song are so good that it’s hard to work out why they haven’t been involved from the start.
The altogether more accomplished Danye are up next, and they quickly hypnotise the cellar with some nice deep bass and some shoegazey Cure/Spiritualised-style jams. They’re at their best where their music has some room to stretch out, and the addition of a drum machine and some sampled feedback loops hint at interesting new avenues for them to explore.
Before long though, the eponymous Montero is seen prowling around the back of the stage, resplendent in a full-length faux fur coat and cat-face-print jammy bottoms. The first surprise is that the ex-pat Aussie is performing solo. His Greek backing band (Montero now resides in Athens) were so traumatised by their last jaunt to the UK – they all brought their own olive oil along, apparently – that they have decided to jib this tour off. This adds a new dimension to the evening. How will the lushly instrumented tracks translate when they’ve been stripped back to their bare bones?
The other thing is that, as mentioned, Montero is creating personalised artwork in exchange for alcohol. Perhaps this is a defense mechanism to cope with his first ever solo show, but it brings a slightly erratic edge to the proceedings. It takes a good few minutes of pre-set banter before his keyboard is even plugged in, and the intro to Montero Airlines is interrupted by several lengthy digressions about the keyboard line in Dancing on the Ceiling (previously heard blasting out The Marlborough pub up the road, apparently).
This sets the tone of the evening, and all in all he probably only gets through about six or seven songs. At one point he even drags up a lady in a PVC cap called Georgia, who proceeds to improvise a tune about memes and her discomfort at finding herself onstage.
When he does settle down and play the songs, the results are encouraging. Vibrations morphs from fuzzy Beach House pop into a plaintive hippy elegy. Quantify turns from a minor-key moog meltdown into a fragile, just-about-holding-it-together ballad.
In the end though, it’s more of a party than a gig, a boozy gathering between new friends, with ruminations on Dennis Wilson (the most beautiful of the Beach Boys) and invitations to the after show. By the end, the crowd seems much reduced, and it looks like the majority of the attendees were there for their mates in the support bands.
His set, then, is an odd proposition. Lacking the big party-pop mega-hits of an act like MGMT, perhaps, but instead bringing something more understated and modest, and no less appealing for it. No ground being broken, no grand ambitions other than to have a good time and to keep on going, and none the worse for it. Sometimes shambolic, sometimes sad, but always entertaining; just about hanging together, minor victories plucked from the jaws of chaos – not unlike the world of Montero.
Images by Getintothis’ Jane Triin