Published Sep 04, 2014The build-up to Death From Above 1979's sophomore album has been something to behold. The Toronto duo released their debut, You're A Woman, I'm a Machine, ten years ago, yet interest in the group never really waned. Now, after a series of sold-out gigs, a near-riot at SXSW and an exclusive pop-up shop on Toronto's Queen Street West, the duo are finally willing to share what they've been up to since reuniting in 2011 with a pair of guerrilla shows in their hometown.
Fans who had obtained wristbands at the aforementioned pop-up shop were joined by a host of industry and media types in the spacious courtyard of the Edward Day Art Gallery, which was half taken up by a newly erected stage. As the sky darkened, Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger emerged, taking their place before ripping into "Cold War."
It was an ominous start, as the bass rumble in the PA rendered everything else inaudible, but by the time they got to new track "Virgins," sound issues were sorted and a mosh pit broke out as the thundering intro to "Turn it Out" took over. Grainger, clad in white overalls sans shirt, apologized to the neighbours unaccustomed to the kind of racket the duo were making, noting that he used to live in the area and even he wouldn't have appreciated the noise.
DFA's set oscillated between old and new with tracks from The Physical World like "Trainwreck 1979" blending in seamlessly with songs with which the crowd had spent a decade familiarizing themselves. "Little Girl" was a particular highlight, with Keeler's bass riffs cutting as sharply as ever.
The arrival of a fire truck during the song threatened to dampen the proceedings — "Are they shutting us down?" asked Keeler, clad in all black, smirking. "We have the perfect song for they." The pair then launched into "Government Trash" as the stage was bathed in red light.
As it became apparent that the band would in fact be able to finish their set, they eased into the mid-tempo groove of "White Is Red," an early highlight from the new record. Fans clamouring to get a look at the band had crowded the sidewalk on both sides of Queen Street, with some even bushwhacking their way to the fence by the side of the stage. Aware of the people unable to make their way into the space, the band dedicated "Romantic Rights" to "the people across the street."
As their main set came to a close, chants of "DFA" emerged to coax the pair back out for one more song. They obliged, delivering "The Physical World," whose 8-bit intro was blared in via the PA while Keeler and Grainger laid down their parts. While they skipped old favourites like "Black History Month" and "Blood on Our Hands," you'd be hard pressed to find fault with their set otherwise. Death From Above 1979 proved that the wait was most definitely worthwhile.
[Editor's note: a previous version of this review incorrectly cited "You're a Woman, I'm a Machine" as the opening song, and has been corrected.]
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Read our story on Death From Above 1979's new album here.