One has to wonder whether Kevin Barnes saw it coming. When he started releasing albums as Of Montreal in 1997, he was a devotee of twee - the most self-conscious and wholesome of bedroom pop.
But when Barnes walked onstage to greet a sold-out crowd Saturday at the TLA, he was dressed like Peter Pan gone glam. His eyes aglow with bright-green David Bowie shadow, he sashayed to the microphone in a pair of girlish jeans shorts - exuding all the gender-bending confidence of Prince or Ziggy Stardust. And with the wave of a hand, he led the four sharp-dressed members of his backing band into a 90-minute set of music to match the look.
Though Of Montreal's nine albums feature many genres, the group now culls its set lists exclusively from the catalog Barnes has been building since 2004's breakthrough sixth album, Satanic Panic in the Attic. Seventies arena rock riffs and disco-funk rhythms meet in a dizzying swirl of harmony a la the Beach Boys (circa Brian Wilson's acid days), with a songcraft that favors the unpredictable, multimovement structures of progressive rock.
The result is a kind of sensory overload you can dance to, which the crowd did without pause: The band wisely warmed them up with an early rush of favorites like "Gronlandic Edit" and "Suffer for Fashion" before moving on to deeper cuts.
That said, the music's only half the draw when it comes to Of Montreal. Throughout the set, a traveling circus of dramatis personae paraded about the stage, appending theatrical annexes to the band's propulsive jams. During the opener, a trio of evangelists alternately prayed and fist-pumped to the rhythm. For the encore, a bipedal pig named Nitro angrily tore apart a self-portrait trash sculpture and threw its remnants into the crowd.
At bizarre intervals like these, it's hard not to stop thinking and simply enjoy. On record, Of Montreal's kitchen-sink A.D.D. can sometimes wear itself thin, and by themselves the staged skits would seem stupidly amateur. But get those two elements going together and you've got one entertaining show.