Having garnered a resurgence of acclaim and attention off the back of their latest record, Deerhunter made a much-anticipated return to the capital to play the Roundhouse on 3rd November. We caught the seminal band in action.
Deerhunter have enjoyed something of a revival in 2019. It’s not as if the Athens, Georgia-via-Brooklyn quintet have ever fallen out of favour with critics and fans alike. However, the reception to their last two albums Monomania and Fading Frontier respectively earned a positive-yet-muted response. The band’s 8th album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? has put the “ambient punk” band back on the forefront of the indie-rock conscious. It is their most subtle record, which rewards repeat listens by diving into their atmospheric wonderland, but crucially doesn’t outstay its welcome at 36 minutes.
There has been much anticipation over Deerhunter’s return to the capital, announced several months ago, given the renewed interest and energy injected into the band. Tonight’s support Cate Le Bon is a welcome addition and also re-establishes her connection to the group as she appears on their latest record. While this viewer only caught the end of Cate Le Bon’s set, the warm reception she receives from the crowd only reinforces how well suited she is to this evening’s line-up.
There is a relaxed atmosphere to this Sunday night performance, something Deerhunter quickly look to shake off once they take the stage. While on record Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? may well be a more tranquil experience, here the band maximise these songs to their live setting. Opening trio ‘Death in Midsummer’ (which surprisingly doesn’t feature Cate Le Bon playing her harpsichord part which defines the song), ‘No One’s Sleeping’ and ‘What Happens to People?’ establishes a strong footing for Bradford Cox and co. Cox is in particularly fine form tonight – although admittedly when isn’t he? – wearing a glamourous black jacket upon entering the stage and having a guitar handed to him mid-song for his solo part in the album, and set, opener.
Interestingly, tonight’s set is shaped equally by the band’s last critically acclaimed work, 2010’s Halcyon Digest, as it is their latest record. After a brief diatribe from Cox about how “The Ramones/America invented punk” – which falls completely flat in a very amusing manner – the band move into the trio of ‘Helicopter’, ‘Revival’ and Lockett Pundt’s ‘Desire Lines’ to push the show into a higher gear. Here they prove why Deerhunter were such a revered band at the turn of the decade, as almost ten years on, these songs still pack a weighty punch.
Despite the strong start, however, the set does hit a bit of a lull in the middle. While the ultra-delicate ‘Sailing’ (also from Halcyon Digest) is a pleasant surprise, it somewhat sucks the momentum the band had built on out of the room. The subsequent few tracks, while impressive from an atmospheric point of view, visibly takes some of the interest from members of the audience who begin to wander off to the bar or elsewhere. The energy in the room doesn’t pick up again until the set-closing duo of ‘Coronado’ and ‘Nocturne’, where thankfully the quintet manages it despite Cox’s slightly controversial (according to some) pro-Catalonian remarks.
Awkward stage banter aside, Deerhunter close the night in typically excellent fashion. The encore comprises of ‘Cover Me/Agoraphobia’ from the band’s masterwork, Microcastle, and the heart-breaking ‘He Would Have Laughed’ a fitting finale and tribute to their fallen friend Jay Reatard. While the brief dip in energy was noticeable, Deerhunter recovered brilliantly for an overall extremely enjoyable set.