At a Deerhunter show, you live and die by Bradford Cox’s guitar. While the other three members of the band hold each song steady, Cox submerges the atmosphere in rushing distortion and sporadic soloing, all laced with incredible skill.
When the Atlanta-based band played the Beachland Ballroom last night in support of its fourth album, Halcyon Digest, it played a set list heavy on new tunes, but mixing in older favorites like “Don’t Stop.”
As Deerhunter ripped through their opening song, “Desire Lines,” Cox lifted his guitar straight up into the air, picking a soaring riff while rhythm guitarist Lockett Pundt held the vocals. Cox took over the mic for most of the set, with Pundt reappearing later in the night for “Fountain Stairs.”
Halfway through the set, “Memory Boy” and “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” were rendered short, punchy, and rhythmic-based, striking a contrast to “Don’t Cry,” where the pace changed several times and crescendos hit the audience like sledgehammers. At the end of the song, Cox proudly told the crowd he wrote it as a tribute to Cleveland’s Pere Ubu.
At times, the guitars felt like weapons, Cox moving his hand impossibly fast across the bridge, turning a ‘60s surf vibe into something scarier and more ambient.
But Deerhunter also released the audience into a relaxed trance, closing with an extended version of “He Would Have Laughed,” a tribute to Jay Reatard from Halcyon Digest.
The contrast between clean and dirty sounds, in terms of both feedback levels and melodic succinctness, was a constant reminder that Deerhunter can't be pinned down. While most of the crowd walked out of the ballroom dazed from the show’s intensity, Cox remained onstage to talk with fans. —Danielle Sills
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