Despite a cold Sunday evening, the pull of Deerhunter’s accumulated oeuvre and critical praise drew a sizeable crowd at Camden’s Roundhouse theatre. Cuzomano, Easy C and Dots & Dashes arrived in typical, ludicrously early fashion – albeit this time spurred by the desire to see support act Cate Le Bon ahead of the main event.
Le Bon, however, did not quite cut the mustard. Her moody arrival on stage set the bar high, only to give way to a stiff performance distinctly lacking in atmosphere. Despite a noticeable uplift during Are You With Me Now, Le Bon’s underwhelming stage presence struggled to win over the room, leaving your Snobs feeling a little deflated.
The mood changed rather completely, however, upon Deerhunter’s arrival. Opening with Death In Midsummer, Cox (donning a ludicrous pair of spectacles) et al. launched into a fabulous opening setlist that saw beautiful renditions of recent release No One’s Sleeping and What Happens To People, the latter replete with an extended intro to showcase Cox and Deerhunter’s instrumental chops.
Whilst on the subject of Bradford Cox, an early attempt at his infamous interactions with the crowd fell flat: “You guys aren’t into stage banter – I’ll remember that!” he hooted, as he scuttled back towards the band for Helicopter. Indeed, thank God he did, as it turns out Cox would “entertain” the crowd with his prattish quips for over thirty minutes at the subsequent night’s show in Brighton. Truly, your dear Snobs dodged a very large bullet there.
And yet, we were not entirely spared. After an admittedly spectacular rendition of Revival, mentions of Trump and Boris Johnson in the present climate unnecessarily antagonise the audience and sink like lead balloons. A later teasing quip of, “I like Spain…I also like Catalonia…” similarly engenders an audible groan as Cox comes across more the stereotypical, moronic yank than woke political activist. At times, one can sense the frisson of friction between Cox and his fellow band members, whose body language would suggest they find such behaviour equally tedious.
It’s thus a welcome break to see Cox take a vocal rain-check for ‘the hit’ Desire Lines, albeit with Lockett Pundt noticeabley annexed stage-right, lest Cox should lose the limelight. From here, however, the band settle into their performance and Cox’s skills with vocal looping really shine through to create a beautiful, transcendent aural experience. Performances of Futurism and Plains sustain an excellent set, and the now subdued Cox is able to work with the band to thrill a stoically appreciative and eclectic audience.
Closing with Nocturne, Easy C and Cuzomano both concur that, personalities aside, Deerhunter really are excellent and deserving of their many accolades. The band return for a three-song encore that saw proceedings ultimately drawn to a close with a powerful belting out of He Would Have Laughed.
Should you see Deerhunter live? Abso-fucking-lutely. Just be sure to prepare yourself for Bradford Cox’s immensely grating personality. Get beyond that, and you’ll find yourself in awe of a spectacular band still going strong.