The best way to start this review is by mentioning that, had it been the day it was originally scheduled for, I would’ve most likely died trying to get the venue. For the show I saw today, I realized how truly worth it that would have been.
Deafheaven is currently wrapping up the last few legs of touring for their third full length LP New Bermuda before they go back into the studio. Being a band who chooses their own show lineups, one could expect nothing but the best from these guys. While the last US headliner they did is impossible to top, featuring screamo legends envy and up-and-coming death n’ rollers Tribulation, they are keeping jt interesting by inviting post-rock icons This Will Destroy You and folk/dream pop artist Emma Ruth Rundle along. As soon as this tour was announced, I made sure I got my tickets right away. Due to the snowstorm that hit on the original date, however, the show was moved to the next day, March 15th. There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll cut to the chase.
The first time I saw Emma Ruth Rundle was with Alcest back in late 2015. To be honest, I really didn’t care for her set at all, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. She now had a full band, and I hadn’t checked anything out by her since that show, so I figured there was a chance it would be more interesting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Her set was just a 30-minute snoozefest, and it really didn’t feel like anyone was enjoying it too much. I appreciate the fact that Deafheaven go out of their way to pick non-metal artists to open for them, and Emma certainly fits with the style that Deafheaven goes for, but I’m just not a fan of her music at all, and her live show really brings nothing to the table. That said, it only got me that much more excited for This Will Destroy You.
Instrumental artists’ live performances seem to either be completely unforgettable or the opposite. I’ve seen some incredible live shows from artists such as And So I Watch You From Afar, and some that left me bored and disappointed, like Animals As Leaders. This Will Destroy You, thankfully, is the former. Post-rock groups really use the build-up of a song to it’s fullest advantage, and when the climax comes, they let loose. This was certainly the case for This Will Destroy You. Hell, one of their guitarists was sitting down the entire set, and he was more energetic than many other groups. The other guitarist got really jumpy and excited during their more climactic moments as well, and even did a bit of vocals on the last song to add flavor. On top of all that, however, the music was intense as fuck. My girlfriend was crying throughout their set, and I really couldn’t blame her. I was feeling pretty emotional as well. However, nothing could prepare anyone for what was going to come next.
I’ve seen Deafheaven three times prior to last night. The last time I saw them at Webster Hall was one of my all-time favorite performances. The amount of energy and passion that went into their set that day was something out of this world, and I got very intimate with vocalist George Clarke during Luna. It was truly a performance that few artists could match. So the big question was, could they top that set?
They opened up with the first track off of New Bermuda, “Brought to the Water.” Within these eight minutes, Deafheaven blew every performance I have seen this year thus far out of the water (no pun intended), a list that includes August Burns Red, Every Time I Die, and The Saddest Landscape. Deafheaven pack the passion of another band’s entire set into one song, and this was only a portion of what would come. They went on to play two other songs from New Bermuda, “Baby Blue” and “Come Back,” pummeling through these tracks while Clarke stood on the barricade, high-fiving and holding audience members’ hands, including my own, and even doing a bit of a dance during the softer moments. Clarke is truly a one-of-a-kind frontman, which is not to discredit the rest of the group at all. They do a fantastic job performing their respective pieces, but it's job of the frontman to get the crowd excited. He really goes above and beyond.
After the tracks off New Bermuda, Deafheaven treated us to tracks off their debut LP, Roads to Judah, which I haven’t heard since 2014. I honestly never thought I was ever going to hear “Language Games” live, so needless to say, I got pretty damn emotional during the last section of the track. This went into “Unrequited,” which was the only song I had heard live off the LP beforehand, but I was glad to see it back in their set. The group also looked stoked to be playing these songs again, which is always a good sign. These tracks went into their cover of “Cody” by post-rock legends Mogwai, which is yet another song I never expected to see live. The group really went out of their way to deliver some true gems on this tour.
The night would come to a close with three tracks off of the group’s iconic Sunbather: “Dream House”, the title-track, and “The Pecan Tree.” I’ve seen all of these tracks before, with the former two being on every set I have seen thus far. These performances were…well, completely divine, for lack of a better word. “Dream House” was as intense as it could ever have been performed. Throughout its nine-minute span, both the group and the crowd gave it their all, with many people getting on stage (despite the barricade) and Clarke jumping into the audience on more than one occasion. It is really hard to put the performance of the song into words, because it was just so perfectly executed, and started the final act of Deafheaven’s set on a very positive note. We would be led into the title-track off Sunbather, which was just as perfectly executed. The conclusion of the set was the conclusion to Sunbather, “The Pecan Tree,” and even though I had to walk out a bit early, I still felt all the incredible vibes throughout its runtime.
While their Webster Hall show will always hold a special place in my heart, it’s hard to deny that Deafheaven really outdid themselves that night. It was truly one of the most passionate shows I’ve seen from the group thus far, and as unbelievable as it is that they are even at this level, I can only anticipate that this passion that drives their performance will continue to grow. George Clarke said the next time they come to New York City, he believes they will have a new LP. I am both ready for a new Deafheaven LP and to see them live for a fifth time.
- Alex Brown
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