Deerhunter / Times New Viking Richard’s on Richards, Vancouver BC November 20

What difference a year makes. A little over 12 months ago Deerhunter were playing in the same city, in the same venue and to 20 people at the most. Now, one album and a 9.2 later (from Pitchfork), the art-rockin’ Georgians had Vancouver’s Richard’s on Richards bursting at the seams, with greedy concertgoers squeezing in tight and clamouring for position.

But this is hardly the Deerhunter of a year ago. No longer are they a band hidden by vocal loops, effect pedals and a front-man in a dress; no longer are they more shock than rock and barely holding it together in front of an audience. No, in 2008, Deerhunter are a band that know who they are, where they are and, according to the Spingsteen introduction, a band born to run (whatever that means).

Following a fast and more than a little furious set by lo-fi popsters Times New Viking, Deerhunter kicked things off loud and proper with a full-on blast of Cryptograms noise. And almost immediately, the five-piece proved they’ve learned a thing or two about live action.

The songs now came first and foremost, rather than the cross-dressed, over-the-top stage theatrics, delivering walls of sound that kept the swirling sonic haze of the band’s youth and yet combined it with the more clearly punctuated avant-pop of their Microcastle. This best-of-both-worlds approach could be found in whatever track Deerhunter touched, making the set’s chunk of Cryptograms starters like "Octet,” "Hazel St” and its title track more coherent and punchier, while amping up the psych factor in Microcastle tracks like "Agoraphobia,” Nothing Ever Happened” and the stunning doo-wop-inspired closer "Twilight at Carbon Lake.” Sadly, this treatment was only given to one Weird Era Cont. track, the blissfully shoegazing "Vox Celeste,” which funnily enough stood as the show highlight.

This time out the songs also came sounding bigger, denser and a whole lot louder, mostly on account of front-man Bradford Cox now being on guitar full-time alongside Lockett Pundt and the band’s newly enlisted "rock chick” Whitney Penny. And whether or not you thought the increased decibels were a bonus, there was no denying that Cox keeping his hands busy on the fretboard was a good thing. It held him steady at the mic and away from the vocal-effect units, using them only occasionally for punctuation rather than as a crutch. And Cox’s voice really doesn’t need the effects anymore, his vocals more than holding their own au natural.

By night’s end, what all this amounted to was Deerhunter emerging a proper rock band, one that can finally do away with all the onstage parlour tricks and simply let its music speak for itself.