Death Grips Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, June 20

Death Grips Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, June 20
Photo: Amy Ray
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When the supposedly broken-up rap group Death Grips — the trio of Zach Hill, Andy Morin and Stefan "MC Ride" Burnett — stepped onto the stage of the Commodore Ballroom for their first Vancouver show since 2012, they came on in darkness and were welcomed by screams. For many people, this was either their first time seeing the group in the flesh or they had made the trek for a performance they thought they may never see. The hype was enough to get the entire crowd moving straight from the get-go.
 
Skimping out on an opener, Death Grips played a lengthy set, making the tagline "An Evening with Death Grips" wholly appropriate. They touched on all corners of their discography, even playing cuts from recently released Jenny Death and The Powers That B. It's clear they've been practicing for these run of shows too — Burnett showed no signs of slowing or losing breath as they tore through song after song.
 
Given Death Grips' affinity for troublemaking, not to mention their approach to creating electro-hip-hop that's aggressive and experimental, it's incredible to see the sight of a sold-out venue collectively losing their shit. Cloaked in red haze, Burnett was a shaman sending himself into a trance as he alternated between barking out his lines and yelling unintelligible screams that put the crowd on high alert. Meanwhile Morin hunkered down by his electronics and Zach Hill beat his drums really hard, improvising and playing quick patterns of urgent beats overtop the original recorded parts. The sound bordered on sustained chaos — there were times where you couldn't hear Burnett's rapping cut through the mix, and the dense sounds Morin deployed sounded damn near terrifying at moments. But the levels of excitement were all but palpable and with the noticeable improvements in their live show too, Death Grips rose to the occasion.
 
The show climaxed with a reading of "Guillotine" that had the crowd screaming along to every hair-raising "YUHHH," and the incendiary "No Love" was one of several songs that instigated heavy moshing.
 
While the night had the feel of a victory lap, the question of whether this is Death Grips' final set of performances or the start of something completely different is anyone's guess.