Deerhunter kick off their European tour in Whelans

Tadgh McNally

Whelan’s was jammed as the Atlanta based rock band took over the place for two shows that kick started their 2019 European tour.

The show was opened by the band’s drummer, Moses Archuleta, who played some tracks from his solo project “Moon Diagrams”. While they started off ambient, it slowly became a more experimental set, with grimy synths and piercing samples that were surrounded by Archuleta’s own distorted singing.

Not long after the opener had finished, Deerhunter emerged from the darkness onto the stage and they were lit up with red and blue lights as front man Bradford Cox grabbed the mic and began to belt out the title track of their debut album, “Cryptograms”.

The action continued into the second song of the evening with “Death in Midsummer”, a new track off their latest album, “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared”. The bright ringing piano and Cox’s cheery vocal performance contrast with the dark lyrics about the death of blue collar work in America.

The crowd erupted into a frenzy of cheers as soon as “Helicopter” started. Soaring guitar chords string while echoing piano bubbles around it as Cox sings. Samples of bubbles bursting drop in intermittently, while soft drums play in the background. The hypnotic tune had the audience in a trance.

“Revival” sparked up the audience’s attention immediately after, with Cox crooning about his religious upbringing. “On the third day I felt his presence near me,” he cries out on the first verse. The strong backing drums and plucky guitars follow Cox’s vocals throughout the song.

The concert wasn’t without any breaks to catch your breath. A couple times throughout the show, Cox finished up and engaged with the audience, telling them about his appreciation for Fontaines DC and questioned why more bands don’t have women members.

He recalled Deerhunter’s past gigs at Whelan’s early in their career, and how the stage had been so much bigger when they were younger. He was disappointed that he didn’t have as much room on stage for what he called “my moves”, but still loved the place anyways.

A highlight of the show was during “Futurism”, when Cox had the band attempt to play the song left-handed instead of right-handed. He even made the keyboard player, Javier Morales, stand with his back to the crowd to play the keyboard the wrong way around. Needless to say, after two failed attempts they switched back and played the song normally.

To end the show they performed the much loved “He Would Have Laughed”, the closer of “Halcyon Digest”. Not content with the base version, they played an extended version that blew the roof off and encaptured the audience.

They did, however, return for an encore after a few minutes to play “Nothing Ever Happened”. The song was dedicated to the late Josh Fauver, who was a longtime member of the band who left in 2012. He passed away on November 2nd 2018, and they played it because Fauver wrote it while he was still a member.

The show was a phenomenal one, with a setlist absolutely stacked with some of Deerhunter’s best songs to date.

Tadgh McNally

Image Credit: Emily Whyte