“At first glance it may seem like this pairing is too funky to be true.” This was the commencement of the anecdote Death From Above 1979’s Sebastien Grainger threw together to promote a veritable thrash of the titans for a deep run of Canadian tour dates.
Oddly enough, this co-headlining jaunt did not make a stop in Toronto, Canada’s most populous city. Eagles Of Death Metal were set to headline there alone the following evening (which may or may not have resulted in one fan losing an ear in a biting incident). So we strolled on over to Hamilton AKA The Hammer AKA Steeltown AKA Ontario’s Armpit (due in part to geography as well as to the wretched stench that has lingered over the industrial city for decades) on Friday night to get down with two of modern rock’s most vociferous and groovy mainstays. It was a confluence of mustachioed machismo.
We strolled through the hallways of the venue, past the antediluvian color schemes and hefty lines and found ourselves in the dark, dank box that is the Hamilton Convention Centre, an enduring relic of a structure.
Within moments, Eagles Of Death Metal’s frontman Jesse Hughes strutted on stage to the sounds of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This followed by his bandmates. Hughes ventured into the dark corners of the stage, cajoling the audience to get rowdy before strapping on a guitar and pulling out that razamataz for I Only Want You.
He then spotted a couple he had met on the street. A couple that had gotten engaged earlier that day. “This ain’t no Hollywood. Let’s hear it for matrimony,” he shouted before joining guitarist Dave Catching for the tandem riffs of the hedonistic Don’t Speak (I Came To Make A Bang). During Complexity Catching was in full rock pose, Flying-V held vertical as he rained down them squeals. He was complimented by the dancy oomphs and pops and quick fills of new touring drummer Jorma Vik (The Bronx, Mariachi El Bronx).
“I don’t drink, but I want y’all motherfuckers to get wasted,” Hughes prodded before throwing down Wanna Be In LA. He was now in full-on gallivant mode, clearly undeterred by recent events. For it has been less than five months since a group of malevolent zealot shitbags turned an Eagles Of Death Metal concert into an abattoir. It is profoundly inspiring to see a group of performers stare down hate with love. To valiantly and adamantly renounce the actions of the Bataclan killers by hitting the road as soon as was possible. In fact, the disaster seems only to have bolstered the “joie de vivre” temperament that these fellas advocate with their prurient brand of rock and roll ditties.
Hughes went on to play a call and response game with the audience pitting the guys against he gals. The guys were in abundance, but the gals were clamorous and shrieking in the echo chamber that was this venue. “I want you girls to know I’m checking you out. Artistically of course,” Hughes teased before ripping into I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News) followed up by an urgent and chugging Speaking In Tongues.
And with that, the guys were taking their bows. It was riotous. It was truncated. It was jubilant. It seemed that anything that followed would inevitably be relegated to a level of anti-climax. But Death From Above 1979 are anything but an anti-climax.
The backdrop is revealed and the lights fade to black. Near-blinding white blacklighting reveals human silhouettes as Grainger and bassist Jesse Keeler awkwardly find their places. The audience pulsates in anticipation. And then the thunder.
Keeler’s deafening bass leads them into Right On, Frankenstein. It’s the kind of feel-low-end bass that rattles your intestines. The incendiary, frenetic sounds conjure up instant sexy results and get the kiddies moshing.
They would draw equally from both of their LP’s, which sound far too much alike considering the 10-year gap between them. But when they first reached back to 2005’s I’m A Woman, You’re A Machine for the baleful Turn It Out, the pit erupted. Appendages flailing aimlessly in the core of the dark, decaying rectangular, reverberating box. Keeler, dressed in all black, turned to his bass amp to take the full brunt of of the feedback he was generating.
To call this set ear-splitting would not be a banal use of hyperbole. During You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, Grainger’s vocals were clipping out hard. Sound issues occasionally plague this band. The issue being that they are often so raucous that you can’t make out what the fuck is happening. Like My Bloody Valentine on Adderall.
So it was welcomed when the dB’s dropped somewhere slightly below 120 for a relatively innocuous two-fer of Black History Month and Trainwreck 1979 showcasing Grainger’s deftly manic double duty of drums and scathing scratch vocals.
The set was an unabating salvo from start to finish. Their breakthough hit and brooding dance number Romantic Rights managed only to be outdone by Keeler’s sinister ascending/descending sludge riffs on The Physical World. Slam-dancing ensued.
Hello tinnitus and degenerative hearing loss.