I got into The Antlers unfashionable late. I didn’t check out Hospice until mid 2010 when Last.fm recommended them as similar to The National, a band who were rapidly become my new favourite at the time. To be honest I don’t think those two bands sound similar at all, the only commonalities I can find are that they are both based in Brooklyn, both sound incredible on record, and they’re even better live. Discovery vectors aside, The Antlers grew on me rapidly and Hospice, with its haunting melodies and beautifully emotive lyrics, quickly became one of my favorite albums of 2010 (even though it came out in 2009).
Fast forward one year and their latest record Burst Apart is currently on the fast track for a favorite of 2011. Needless to say I was extremely excited to catch these guys live. Thankfully my excitement was well founded and on Tuesday night at The Mod Club in Toronto not only were my expectations met, they were far exceeded. I managed to capture some great live videos of about half the set as well, so be sure to check that out too.
Opening the night was Iowa born and Montreal based singer songwriter Laurel Sprengelmeyer a.k.a. Little Scream, with a five-piece backing band in tow. I’ve seen the tail end of a Little Scream set once before and was curious to hear more. This second encounter has finally clinched it, and I will be sure to check out more of her music. They were a good live act, with songs oscillating between delicate solo tunes and full band rockers. Their stage antics were amusingly awkward as well. At one point Laurel asked “What band do we remind you of?”. I couldn’t make out a response from the crowd. “You were supposed to say Iron Maiden” she continued. By this point the crowd was collectively confused and she finished up with “Because we have three guitarists and no bass”.
So she didn’t have the greatest sense of humor, and last I checked the brains of Iron Maiden was in fact their bass player Steve Harris, but luckily we weren’t here for heavy metal trivia or a comedy show. One of their guitarists did act like he was auditioning for the heavy metal giants though and was throwing out every guitar hero trick in the book as he leaped around the stage through the entire repertoire of rock star poses. There was a little more awkward banter between songs such as when Laurel left a ring mod on her microphone so was entirely incomprehensible, but somehow it came off as endearing.
The Antlers took to the stage rocking with Parentheses from Burst Apart and followed up with Kettering, one of my favourite tracks from Hospice. It was clear from the start that these were not going to be exact replicas of the album tracks. For starteds The Antlers, once a solo project of singer/guitarist Peter Silberman and expanded into a three-piece for Hospice, was now packing a little extra punch with a forth member alternating between bass and second guitar. The extra musical muscle worked great live and the songs carried a lot more energy then their ethereal album counterparts.
The set featured heavily from Burst Apart, in fact only one song from that record (Tiptoe) was absent. This wasn’t a problem for me however since I love both records, and the newer songs seem to translate live a little better than the more ambient Hospice. I was captivated for the entire set, and Silberman’s delicate falsetto was incredibly effecting as he gazed onto the crowd sadly during the songs. You could tell he felt something when he was playing and I felt slightly guilty smiling with pleasure for the music while he was singing his sad songs.
After a strong set the band returned to the stage for a lengthy encore which started out sounding like TV On The Radio’s Province, but then dropped into a powerful 8 minute rendition of the Two. The new interpretations of this song worked wonderfully and you really owe it to yourself to watch the live video of it. Finally the show was brought to a close with the epic Wake, and I couldn’t have been more satisfied. If you have never heard this band live, you’re missing out.
1. Parentheses – The Antlers
2. Kettering – The Antlers
3. French Exit – The Antlers
4. Bear – The Antlers
5. Putting the Dog to Sleep – The Antlers
6. Two – The Antlers
7. The Heron & the Fox – Little Scream
8. People is Place – Little Scream
9. (Unknown title) – Little Scream
The Antlers setlist
3. No Widows
4. I Don’t Want Love
5. French Exit
6. Rolled Together
7. Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out
10. Putting the Dog to Sleep