Friday, January 23, 2009

Live: The Antlers

When: 1/22
Where: Cake Shop

I named The Antlers as one of my "Bands to Watch in 2009" but didn't consider them the top of the list in any way but alphabetically - until I got a copy of their new album, Hospice, which is due for release March 3. I'm itching to tell you about it, but I'm going to hold off until closer to the release to give you the details. I'll just say this much: Hospice has the potential to be one of the most important albums of the decade.

But putting out a revolutionary album and putting on a good live show are two different feats. I'd never caught The Antlers live before and I figured their live set must lose a lot - a lot of what's so great about Hospice is the sheer magnitude and intricacy of its noise.

Yet live, The Antlers capture that spirit masterfully. It wasn't until I watched them make their music that I realized how much of what's going on is the work of Darby Cicci, whose place is behind a guitar, a keyboard synthesizer, a microphone and a fair-sized pedal board. Cicci's attention to detail is outstanding - he constantly adjusts his synth and pedals to perfect his sound. Occasionally his fiddling led to an unbalance but his responsiveness, creativity and clear expertise at his instrument(s) were still fascinating to watch.

The Antlers (photo from
The Antlers

With the help of Cicci, the band was able to replicate the dense sound of Hospice, but the performance wasn't an exact copy of the record either. The songs took on new life on stage. The last song of the set, "Two," had a ringing undercurrent of triumph that is nowhere in the version on Hospice. Much of the rest of the set was similarly infused with a new energy, making the listen interesting even for those of us who have listened to Hospice a hundred times in the last two weeks (that'd be me!).

The band was a little mellow in their performance, but I'm not sure how typical that is - frontman Peter Silberman commented that he had been sick all week and was feeling "sedated." If the band isn't hopping around like banshees, though, it's mostly because they are concentrating on their sound, not because they aren't bringing energy to the performance. Moreover, the tightness with which they churned out their complex arrangements and their level of attentiveness to one another were exceptional.

Though all three members of the band show outstanding talent, what will ultimately carry the band to success is Silberman's beautiful voice - which is just as good delivered live as it is on the record - and his powerful songwriting. It's a haunting combination. After the show, I asked my friend what he thought. Without hesitating, he said "they're going to be massive." Let's hope so.


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