review and all photographs by Joshua Bernard
The last time Death from Above 1979 played Boston, it was 2005 and they opened for Nine Inch Nails at the Fleet Center (Formerly the Boston Garden). There’s a big difference between the 17k seat Boston Garden vs the 2500 seat House of Blues, but that didn’t seem to matter to the Canadian duo. They were making enough noise to be heard on the moon.
This was my first time seeing DFA live, and they did not disappoint. The band nearly shattered the foundations of the building, leaving us to re-build in the wake of their awesome gift to the world.
In the photo pit, I made the mistake of being next to one of the monitors as they hit the stage. As they broke into “Turn it Out” from their first LP, I was nearly blown off my feet by the sheer force of the sound. It was a relentless hammer to the face of hard, aggressive riffing from bassist Jesse Keeler and drums like thunder from singer/percussionist Sebastian Granger.
The band hammered on for the next hour or so with a good mix of tracks from both albums. I noticed they tended to stay away from the slower tempo songs like “Black History Month” and favored uptempo tracks like “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine”, and “Pull Out”.
I had wondered how a duo would fill out the stage at the House of Blues, but they actually had a pretty interesting arrangement. Looking at the stage, on the left was Jesse on bass, surround by an enclosure of amplifiers, monitors and a keyboard. To his right, on a riser, sat Sebastian at his drums – facing Jesse instead of the crowd. Behind them was a giant illuminated logo, the only source of colored lights throughout the show. The band made an interesting stylistic choice by limiting their stage lighting to just white strobes from the ceiling and the illuminated logo. Their outfits were similarly minimal – Jesse in black and Sebastian in white. Wether intentional or not, it gave the visiuals a powerful, minimalist effect, much like their music.
After one three song encore, the band closed their set with the perfect track – the closing track from their most recent release: “The Physical World”. When their massive set was done, and the lights went up, I had such a feeling of euphoria. It was one of those moments that you experience when you get off a roller coaster or emerge from a near-death experience. You feel energized, alert and glad to be alive.
DFA may not be as polished live as they are in the studio, but the gigantic wall of sound they produce live more than makes up for any flaws in their performance. They make a lot of beautiful noise for just two guys, and I for one hope we don’t have to wait another 10 years to hear it again.
It’s been two days and my hearing still isn’t right, if that tells you anything…
(All photos copyright Joshua Bernard 2014; these images may not be used elsewhere without permission.)