Touring a sophisticated new album, Montreal post-punks Ought added a hint of glam to their nervous energy for a winning performance at Black Cat on Wednesday.
Ought frontman Tim Darcy is best known for a style that I’ve previously called reminiscent of David Byrne, particularly in the manner in which he will punctuate observations in songs like “Today, More Than Any Other Day” from Ought’s 2014 debut album of the same name and “Beautiful Blue Sky” from 2015’s Sun Coming Down.”
But Tim branched out quite a bit to add a layer of Bryan Ferry-styled crooning that occasionally recalled fellow really tall singer Jack Ladder with songs from Room Inside the World, the welcome third album from Ought released in February via Merge Records.
In concert on April 4, Tim remained a thoroughly watchable performer, grounding his lanky frame while singing but also putting his entire self into his song. Standout selections included new singles like “These 3 Things” and “Desire,” both performed early in the show. With a trancelike focus, Tim gave full voice to his musical proclamations, occasionally poetic and sometimes droll but always life-affirming.
The steady consistency of Ought remained in poignant lyrics that contemplate how to best approach the world around us, carrying our inner turmoil within while interacting with a sometimes obscured world without.
In the cautionary “These 3 Things,” Tim sang:
“You fall back off the ledge in your mind’s eye/
It can see how you land and that’s the difference/
Now proceed calmly to the edge of your road/
A narrow way that is leading you home”
Then he asked in a trademark manner that is insistent yet kind: “Will I hear my soul?”
Listen to Room Inside the World by Ought on Bandcamp:
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1503174799 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]
To Tim’s left, Ben Stidworthy anchored the show with dynamic bass. He moved deftly from the coiled vibrancy of “These 3 Things” to the fierce solemnity of “Desire.” Even in quiet moments, Ben seemed to perform with an inner intensity that serves as a foundation of Ought.
To Tim’s right, keyboardist Matt May shined more now than any other day perhaps darting from resplendent sprinkles of synth twinkling around Tim’s guitar in the likes of “Beautiful Blue Sky” to the open flowing keys of “Alice,” the new album closer that also wrapped the main set at Black Cat.
And in the rear of the stage, drummer Tim Keen created peace and tranquility, not things usually associated with a drummer, for the duration of the show. Unlike rock drummers producing a raucous din, Tim Keen instead flooded our ears with a graceful hum that captured the essence of Ought’s musical engine.
Ought were in fine form indeed. They wrapped their US tour in Boston on Saturday, but keep your ears open for their assured return, guaranteed to provoke dancing and contemplation alike.
Here are some pictures of Ought performing at Black Cat on April 4, 2018.