Death From Above in The Tivoli Theatre, Dublin, on 14 March, 2018
Having dropped the 1979 suffix that became necessary after Death From Above Records filed a cease and desist letter against them in 2004 – something that incensed the duo no end at the time – Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler are back to just plain old Death From Above on their latest record, ‘Outrage! Is Now’. The pair disbanded just two years after their debut ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine’ that same year, and it would be another decade before a second album saw the light of day.
Tonight, on this wet, miserable night in Dublin (“We didn’t think you guys were gonna come,” drummer and vocalist Grainger later admits), they’ve taken a one-night nixer from their support slot with At The Drive-In on their UK tour. After those forty-five minute warm-up sets, Death From Above are ready to stretch out and turn the volume up for a respectably packed Tivoli Theatre, and Grainger reads the gamey room with a smile – “You’re gonna make us do the real work.”
Their current supporting gig couldn’t be more apt. Last year’s ‘Outrage! Is Now’ seems to have the post-hardcore sweat of At The Drive-In seeping from its pores, even more hard-hitting than its dancier predecessor three years earlier. Accordingly, Nomad ensures a rowdy start, and bassist Keeler, flanked by a pair of stacked Orange amps, begins a set of gargantuan low-end grind that wrings all manner of chaos and disorder from his clear-bodied bass.
Grainger gets the crowd involved for “a little schtick”, coaching the venue on the breathy vocal motif from a Canadian gym advert they appropriated for Trainwreck 1979 from 2014’s ‘The Physical World’ (“Our comeback album!”). Keeler’s bass comes in so loud that the crowd’s attempt is barely heard, and it all boils down into sporadic, glitchy bass chords and drum fills that progressively solidify into Romantic Rights. This time the crowd are more audible, clapping time as Keeler’s bass goes through its paces and Grainger punches out a kick-drum backbeat.
Holy Books shines in a selection that at times is as proggy as it is pummelling, inciting some crowd surfing, but the triptych that makes up the encore is just full-throttle punk rock. “This song’s called Pull Out and we play it way too fucking fast,” Grainger warns from behind his gold-sparkle kit. And it is fucking fast. As he screams the final words, the drumsticks go flying and Keeler tears things down one final time, decelerating the tempo and winding the room back down for the trip home.
Setting a crowd up for – and measuring up against – a band like At The Drive-In is a skill in itself. Coming from that touring environment into a standalone set, Death From Above are in fighting form for a crowd that’s equally as charged. From post-punk to prog, noise rock to post-hardcore, and with their own twisted take on it all, DFA remain as loud and dangerous as they ever were.