Vancouverites were lucky to experience an intimate and propulsive show by Algiers yesterday evening (July 13), the band launching their North American headline tour after coming off a stint opening for Depeche Mode in Europe. Their energized and skilful playing of a unique blend of genres, mixed with their overtly political lyrics, riled up the small club, ensuring attendees had a night that they'll be raving about for some time.
Local groups Sex With Strangers and Actors played to the first concertgoers to arrive, the latter performing synth-heavy post punk. Actors' lead singer was in good spirits, promising the crowd that they were in for an incredible night after he had witnessed Algiers' soundcheck.
Algiers immersed the crowd in their politics before they had even hit the stage, as clips of figures such as Noam Chomsky (commenting on the then possibility of a Trump presidency) were fed through the speakers. Their latest record, The Underside of Power, is a reaction and an emotional journey through the current Western political climate, and the band made its presence and weight felt.
Frontman Franklin James Fisher's throaty, powerful vocals were just one aspect of the band's dynamic nature, rising above industrial beats provided by bassist Ryan Mahan. Mahan insisted on eye contact with the crowd, pumping up those onstage and off. Algiers' music truly has an apocalyptic feeling to it, highlighted in "Cleveland," where gospel emotion meets stark electronics. Guitarist Lee Tesche provided versatile guitar playing, often working towards creating the dark soundscapes that characterize the band's sound. Drummer Matt Tong worked with Mahan to establish a dark, sinister groove on a standout performance of "Death March," Fisher referring to a "crypto-fascist contagion": "This is how the hate keeps passing on."
The room filled out significantly during the band's set, with dancing and exclamations that the band were "unreal" abounding. While Algiers kept talking to a minimum, Fisher couldn't help but grin at the undeniably positive response. The band's deployment of rhythmic flourishes like handclaps and maracas filled out the music, as did their haunting backing vocals, which harkened back to the group's Southern upbringing in Atlanta.
There is an intensity to Algiers' music that's magnetic, the strength of each individual player serving to heighten the work. It was refreshing to see a band so unabashedly original and committed onstage, regardless of whether that meant that everyone "got" the nuances of their complex and heavily emotive music. Algiers brought the audience with them on a musical journey that grappled with both individual and collective strife. Their music is firmly rooted in the politics of today, making it both challenging and necessary.