Death From Above 1979, ABC, Glasgow, Mon 23 Feb 2015
There's little electricity in the air tonight for the reunited Canadian duo
There's a moment right before the gig starts when a crew member comes onstage for a routine check of the bass. In what feels like a fraction of an instant, that familiar, rabid tone that has become just as iconic as the be-trunked emblem plastered over every t-shirt and record cover in here, squeals into life, tearing through the air like someone's running a bread knife over your ears. So yeah, not even one (official) note has been played and already Death From Above 1979 have announced their arrival.
It's the perfect tease, before the equally familiar knell of ‘Turn It Out’ (which famously opens the Canadian duo's 2004 full length debut, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine) gives way to real bassist Jesse F. Keeler, who soon unleashes a snarling, convulsing mess of noise, buoyed by the precision battering of drummer / singer / other half Sebastian Grainger.
However, this is about as good as it gets. Not that the rest of it's bad, as such, it just never goes beyond this level. And if anything, it often struggles to stay there.
A winning start is quickly punctuated and arguably flattened by a trio of slightly lesser known jams from 2014's long-awaited The Physical World (‘Right On Frankenstein!’, ‘Virgins’ and ‘Cheap Talk’) before tearing back into oldies ‘You're a Woman, I'm a Machine’, and ‘Go Home Get Down’. However, by this point a muddy and cluttered sound out front has taken over, and once potent, commanding riffs soon drift into washy, almost indistinguishable blasts, with Grainger's perforating howl sounding a little lost at sea.
In all honesty, given that so many of their songs thrive on very similar elements, it soon becomes hard to pick out one from the other. And after a while, everything sort of hits a plateau. It doesn't help either that there's little change, visually, to lift it up a level, beyond flashes of colour against the banner behind them and the occasional strobes that strikingly light up Keeler's headbanging over his synth and Grainger's metronomic limbs.
That Grainger and Keeler can play is without question though. Pack these guys into a box, have 'em play for half an hour and you will surely crawl out on your hands and knees, breathless, near deaf, and no doubt enlightened. It's the kind of music that you want to feel like a punch in the head. But tonight, there's just not that same level of urgency or excitement, and with the sound not hitting the spot, there are times when it doesn't excite: it just exists. Admittedly ‘Romantic Rights’, as solid as it is, sends a jolt through the crowd but for the most part there is little electricity in the air tonight.