Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
March 31, 2011
With each successive show played in London growing in size from venue to venue, it’s a clear indication of the steady rise of this much loved Atlanta four-piece, and with Shepherd’s Bush Empire being sold out, it’s their largest capacity UK headline show to date. For the ardent, precious fan, Deerhunter aren’t your band anymore. The era of slipping into town for a small club tour is over, but from the staid, somewhat bemused crowd, Deerhunter are still an acquired taste, one that’s seemingly unlikely to assail the upper reaches of the charts like label-mates, The National.
Their fourth album Halcyon Digest showed the evolution of a band who refine and explore their sound with each release — mixing up shoegaze and folk-tinged pop with more experimental, looped sounds. Live, Deerhunter aren’t an easy band to pin down. Having released Halcyon Digest back in September, an album that is probably old to them (more so to workaholic frontman Bradford Cox who moonlights as Atlas Sound), they choose to open with an entirely new song whipped up a few days ago at sound check in Glasgow. The track “60 Cycle Hum” is Blondie’s “Dreaming” meets Joy Division’s “Transmission” and it’s brilliant.
Likewise a later cover of Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out Of Me”, Bradford taking on Howard Devoto’s gritted teeth delivery while sticking close to the original. This runs counter to the reworking of some of the pre-Halcyon Digest material that appear to have been given new introductions (“Rainwater Cassette Exchange”) or balloon out into frenzied mid-jam monologues, like Microcastle’s “Nothing Ever Happened” (one of the show’s highlights) as Bradford burrows into Patti Smith’s “Horses”. Of the newer songs, guitarist Lockett Pundt’s “Desire Lines”, and Bradford’s “He Would’ve Laughed” showcase the band’s inner beauty while strung out under the weight of their own lyrical introspection.
Closing out with “Octet”, their indie hypno-funk dancefloor crossover that never happened (think My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon” but with a whirlpool bassline) it becomes clear that the only thing that could’ve made this show better is if they handed out drugs at the door. But that would be illegal and kids, drugs are uncool and you should go to school and listen to your parents, lest you turn into a bunch of psychedelic shoegaze pushing musos on a highway to HELL.
Setlist: 60 Cycle Hum/Desire Lines/Hazel Street/Don’t Cry/The Light Pours Out Of Me/Rainwater Cassette Exchange/Little Kids/Memory Boy/Nothing Ever Happened/Helicopter/He Would’ve Laughed//Cover Me (Slowly)/Agoraphobia/Octet