Live Review: DMA’S Quiet Acoustic Meets Energetic Indie Rock

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All photo credits go to Ryley Clarke for Savage Thrills

Darkness fell on North Melbourne’s Meat Market before DMA’S arrived on stage. The show opened with Tommy O’Dell’s distinct vocals and Johnny Took’s acoustic guitar on the quiet opening of “So We Know”. At the song’s crescendo, guitarist and backing vocalist Matt Mason and the three members of DMA’S touring band joined to complete “So We Know” in a fully lit stage. With the whole band assembled, they played “Feels Like 37”, a favourite from their eponymous EP.

Clad in a white turtleneck and a panel cap, O’Dell looked like the epitome of dad style rather than the frontman of a band that received international acclaim for its cover of Cher’s “Believe” on Triple J. While O’Dell kept his stage banter to a minimum, the Sydney band seemed at home in Melbourne, graciously thanking the audience between songs.

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I hadn’t known what kind of energy to expect prior to the show, not the least because DMA’s is better known for emotive acoustic tracks than for stadium bangers. Songs like “Too Soon” proved that DMA’S live shows are well capable of commanding a room and invigorating an audience.

With an album forthcoming, it’s inevitable that DMA’S would play a few new songs. With Took’s guitar prominent at its outset, the new song sounded more country than rock. As is often the case when a band debuts tracks, the crowd was less engaged than when DMA’S played fan favourites. Within a few notes from the start of “Melbourne,” the energy level surged again. Though I wouldn’t consider “Melbourne” a standout on the stellar album Hills End, the audience responded with enthusiasm for the song named for their city.

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“Timeless” showcased the band’s instrumental synergy. The song had a richness and depth that exceeded its recorded version. While Mason took the vocal lead in the latter half of the song, O’Dell interacted with the audience. In contrast with his reserved addresses to the audience between songs, he was physically commanding during. He spread his arms to the hundred of hands stretched out before him.

“In the Moment,” too, was an instrumental standout with dissonant guitar coupled with Took’s prominent acoustic. The sound faded into the quiet opening verses of acclaimed single “Delete”. The band was silhouetted on a dark stage until a burst of light met the song’s euphoric final chorus.

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DMA’S latest single “Dawning”, the lead for their forthcoming album, made a fitting follow up to the band’s early single “Delete”. Though it had only been released a month prior, it was met with enthusiasm. “Step Up the Morphine” became a singalong that created a community out of the Meat Market. “Laced” faded to dissonance to close the first part of the show.

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The band returned for “Play It Out”. As the closing track on Hills End, it made a fitting encore. While it’s not as well known or catchy as some of DMA’S singles, it’s an instrumental standout in their discography and their live show. The band’s most famous track “Lay Down”. was the perfect choice to close the show. After one last final dance and singalong, DMA’s bid their audience farewell. From their musicianship to their energy level, DMA’s exceeded all of my expectations.

This review was originally posted on Savage Thrills.

LCD Soundsystem With All of Their Melbourne Friends

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All photos of LCD Soundsystem are credited to Ryley Clarke for Savage Thrills

The excitement was palpable as LCD Soundsystem took the stage at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena. The audience was already moving to the booming synth when frontman James Murphy came out, dressed in his signature blazer and t-shirt. Our collective excitement exploded when Murphy reached the chorus of “Yr City’s a Sucker.” Their opening song set the tone for the show; even the people in the nosebleeds were on their feet and dancing under the light radiating from the disco ball.

The band transitioned straight into “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” one of their best-known songs, as if to announce their presence officially. Already I was struck by the realization that so much of LCD Soundsystem’s discography is more that danceable — music to which one could dance. It’s music to which the audience cannot help but dance. With a groove that strong, you can’t listen unmoved.

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Murphy paused to make some precursory remarks but his words were interrupted by the band’s progression into I Can Change. Never have I seen a crowd of such diverse ages move their arms so expressively. Gavin Russom danced over her synthesizer with an ethereal quality. Single American Dream from the band’s forthcoming album of the same title mellowed the audience and slowed the show’s tempo. At the time I was reluctant to embrace a slower pace but the transition proved to be a reprieve from the onslaught of waving bodies.

The slow build of Get Innocuous made the perfect transition back to a higher tempo. The band was in perfect synergy, with keyboardist and synth player Nancy Whang taking the vocal lead in the latter half of the song. Unlike American Dream, new single Call the Police cohered with the adjacent tracks from early LCD Soundsystem albums. Well received by the audience, it was a surprise standout in the show.

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Murphy paused at the close of Someone Great to address the audience. He said,
“I usually don’t get in the face of old people for being ignorant but when you come after my family, you come after my friends, you can go fuck yourself. So let’s rename this place.” The remark was met with resounding cheers. Murphy alluded to Margaret Court, the tennis star for whom the arena is named. Court has long been a vocal critic of LGBTQ rights, such that groups have called for the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena. Murphy’s statement offers implicit support to Russom, who publicly announced her trans identity in early July.

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On that energy, the band began to play Home. It’s a testament to the strength of the album that all the songs played from This is Happening were standouts in the set. Songs from Sound of Silver, meanwhile, formed the show’s emotional peaks. Like Someone Great before it, New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down became a group sing along, a chorus of off tune ‘oh’s meeting Murphy’s impassioned pitch.

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Before they began New York, I Love You, Murphy announced that the song would be followed by a brief interlude, not in an attempt to create mystery around an encore but rather so the band could take a bathroom break. “People gotta pee, man,” he said. “We’re not young.” The band played to an explosive finish while Murphy, presumably, took his bathroom break.

Despite the absence of mystery, the audience thrilled at the encore, opening with Dance Yrself Clean. The energy reached a fever pitch at the song’s chorus. The crowd jumped and an unlikely mosh pit formed in front of the stage as red and blue light exploded over the arena. As great as Dance Yrself Clean is on the album, it doesn’t even compare to the electricity of the performance. We returned to our places for LCD Soundsystem’s final song.

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All My Friends proved to be the perfect closer. The arena was awash was a warm orange glow, reminiscent of a campfire. After their five year hiatus, to hear Murphy sing “You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan / And the next five years trying to be with your friends again” made a fitting conclusion to their show. Call me sentimental, but sharing in LCD Soundsystem’s energy and singing All My Friends with thousands of others made me feel as though I was with all of my friends.

What was most remarkable about the band’s performance – even more so than their masterfully played music – was the enthusiasm with which they played. Even though they were only a few days past Splendour in the Grass, the enthusiasm of the band matched that of their audience. If their Melbourne fanbase is any indication, LCD Soundsystem’s forthcoming album will be met with rapturous enthusiasm upon its release.

This article was originally published on Savage Thrills.

Live Review: Preoccupations

Preoccupations at the Rickshaw, Vancouver 2016

Preoccupations played at the Rickshaw to support their eponymous album, released two weeks earlier. The show was Preoccupations’ first stop on their tour and their first return to Vancouver since their show last fall as Viet Cong.

The band stepped unannounced onto the stage, silhouetted by green lights and a curtain of fog. Vocalist Matt Flegel adjusted his bass as the band began to play “Continental Shelf,” the first single and most melodic track from Viet Cong, setting the tone for a synthesizer-heavy Preoccupations show.

They transitioned from the tuneful choruses of “Continental Shelf,” into “Anxiety,” the first track and single from Preoccupations. The hum of dissonance that introduced the song was broken by Flegel’s distorted bass and Mike Wallace’s pummelling percussion.

They performed the first half of Preoccupations in sequence, with occasional quips from Flegel between songs. The eleven-minute song “Memory” was a stand out. The metallic drumming and monotone vocals of the first half of the song typified Viet Cong, with discord between the instrumentation, percussion and synth, while the latter featured Flegel’s most melodic vocal performance of the show, along with instrumentation reminiscent of early vanguard post-punk.

Preoccupations at the Rickshaw, Vancouver 2016

After playing a few songs off Viet Cong, they resumed playing newer tracks “Degraded” and “Stimulation.” This made their launch into the “Death” — Viet Cong’s final track and their habitual closer on the previous album tour — all the more unexpected. The subdued fadeaway of Preoccupations’ closer “Fever” would have better fit the setlist.

“Death” was a fifteen minute long display of musical endurance. The instrumental denouement seemed longer live than it did on the record. The steady pulse of stage lights emphasized Wallace’s relentless measured drumming. Though the length and intensity of “Death” made it a fitting closing track, the conclusion of the song was abrupt on both the album and in concert.

The audience milled around for a few minutes longer while the stage remained backlit. It was only when the house music resumed that we realized the visceral experience was over and we had heard all we were going to from Preoccupations that night.

Song of the Day: Memory by Preoccupations

This review was originally published on Discorder Magazinewebsite.