Liars at Turner Hall
Now, let me get this out of the way right off the bat: Julian Gross is probably my favorite drummer in rock music right now. While his beats aren’t always the most complex—in fact, they often hit with caveman-like simplicity—they still manage to be innovative and compelling, and when Aaron Hemphill sets down his guitar to beat along on a snare and floor tom, the duo create these absolutely moving, sexy polyrhythms that underlie the band’s creepy yet utterly mesmerizing songs.
I was intrigued to see what a band like Liars, who manage to reinvent themselves entirely with each new album, would do in a live setting. How do you create a cohesive live show pulling from such disparate sources? Though there were a few minor hiccups, the band was largely successful, letting one song flow seamlessly into the next, even when the songs themselves sounded almost nothing alike. This is mainly owed to frontman Angus Andrew, whose voice tied everything together into one recognizable whole. He hit all the right notes, at times crooning like fellow Aussie Nick Cave, or delivering the lyrics in alternating scary whispers and frantic yawps; when he slipped into his soft, warbling falsetto, the crowd could not help but stand completely transfixed.
The rest of the band—rounded out as a five piece with Fol Chen’s Alex Myrvold and Samuel Bing on guitar and bass—brought it in full force, from atonal and abrasive noise shrieking with feedback to raucous guitar rock or spacey electroacoustic numbers. The set consisted largely of material from this year’s Sisterworld and 2007’s Liars, but there were also songs from their three previous albums, including two from They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and, to my absolute delight, three from Drum’s Not Dead, my favorite Liars record. From the latter, they played “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,” a startlingly tender and heart-rending song promising “If you need me/I will always be found,” a definite highlight of the set. They even played a Bauhaus cover (though I hear they did a Killdozer song in Madison the night before, and I’m pretty jealous). The most surprising thing about their performance, though, was how consistently they rocked. I expected a lot of art punk noise, but they were tight as hell and had me shaking my ass and pumping my fist throughout.