Wednesday’s Deerhunter show at the downtown Civic Theatre was announced a mere three weeks ago, and, during most of Bitchin’ Bajas opening set, it looked like it could’ve been criminally undersold (for a band of Deerhunter’s stature…and quality). By the time Deerhunter hit the stage, the floor and second balcony had mostly filled out and the doo-wop-meets-overdrive lead title track from 2009’s EP Rainwater Cassette Exchange served as the lead-in for an hour-and-a-half set with nary a dull moment.
Each time I’ve seen Deerhunter over the last nine years the vibe and sound has been markedly different depending on the sonic leanings of the latest record and Cox’s general mood at the time. Last night, Cox seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself, still interacting with the crowd between nearly every song (even handing out a setlist to a fan who has held it down front row center for the last few shows) and delivering deadpan lies about playing songs they haven’t played in awhile (before playing 2015-16 setlist staple “Breaker”). Always naturally weird and even forcibly awkward at times with the mic during banter situations, there’s a magnetic sense when Cox addresses an audience, you truly don’t know what words are about to be said and most comments drew laughs instead of awkward shrugs.
Songs old and new have been re-stoked and most all of the Fading Frontier material is markedly different live. Deerhunter has thrown a few more colorful tones into their sound and still expertly toe a thin line between the hooky, the hypnotic and frequent waves of full-squall, room-filling noise rock (an area where Deerhunter is arguably at their most enthralling). This wide spectrum was exhibited on tunes like “Helicopter”, a big set highlight with it’s unraveling guitar cadences filtered through a spectral layer of reverb, that flowered lackadaisically into an auditory hallucination.
The last forty-five minutes of the set had the audience spellbound, giving their full attention. The run started with the Afro-tropical funk arrangement of “Living My Life” (the more dance-focused style calling to mind Paul Simon or latter Talking Heads). At this point, the fact that Cox and a couple of the other band members were dressed for a night out in Havana made the most sense. Desire Lines went full dark noise punk after Lockett took the mic and led the way through the dim excellence of the main verses. Snakeskin delivered on the disco funk banger potential of the studio original and “Nothing Ever Happened” was as explosive and improvisational as ever, which says a lot.
With Cox in high spirits and stepping into the oftentimes uneasy role of punk rock front man with full embrace, Deerhunter’s live show on Wednesday night again proved that they are one of the least pigeonhole-able bands in the rock and roll world and continue to bring the unexpected with each new tour.
Setlist: Deerhunter @ Civic Theatre, New Orleans, LA 4/14/2016
Rainwater Cassette Exchange
Tape Hiss Orchid
Living My Life
Nothing Ever Happened