Published Oct 21, 2010Deerhunter's first headlining gig in two years demonstrated not just their growth as a live band, but also the growth of their audience. Just three years ago they could hardly convince 100 people to come out in Toronto, but on this chilly night, they managed close to ten times that.
New album Halcyon Digest was their prime focus, making up nearly half of the set, beginning with "Desire Lines," a song that unbeknownst to many is sung in a sleepy drawl by mustachioed guitarist Lockett Pundt. The crowd was rapturous, but surprisingly, Bradford Cox, the official and often controversial mouthpiece, kept it cool with the banter. Naming his fellow bandmates after Beatles (Lockett was George, Moses Archuleta was Ringo and Josh Fauver was Paul), he did highlight a "fun day in Toronto," which consisted of shopping at cheapo department store Honest Ed's and local record shop Sonic Boom. Then he started a heated debate over his love for Pizza Pizza, to which he argued, "You should be more receptive to that place. For cheap pizza, it's the best deal I've found. A lot better than Domino's."
Single "Revival" may have lacked the banjo, but the band's sonic enhancement gave it new purpose, much like "Rainbow Cassette Exchange," which was reconfigured using a hammering rhythm borrowed from Billy Squier's "The Big Beat." The nicest surprise of the night, however, was witnessing how Deerhunter have become such an accomplished, exhilarating live act. For the most part, Halcyon Digest lacks the guitar jams and trippy psychedelics of their previous work, and so something like "Helicopter" or the epic "He Would Have Laughed" demand more attention. The band nailed both, but nothing all night held a candle to fist-pumper "Nothing Ever Happened," which morphed into a ten-minute free-for-all that saw Cox embrace his inner guitar geek, wailing and scraping on his instrument for half the song.
By comparison, Jersey-based openers Real Estate were heavy-eyed, but to be fair, their placid jams were the perfect relaxer before Deerhunter dropped their eargasm.