Death From Above 1979
Photo courtesy of Paradigm
Shoulda been a tintype: Death From Above 1979
The Ritz, Raleigh
Monday, Aug. 10, 2015
Growing older, of course, means changing. But when you’re a wild rock ’n’ roll band, that process isn’t necessarily easy or graceful. It can be hard to fight that current, to stay wild, like you once were. That’s what made you edgy, cool; to some of us, the crazy stuff we did as a young adult now seems legitimately insane. Some of us have real jobs and kids, mortgages and partners.
That was on my mind Monday night, when the power duo Death From Above 1979 played a simple show at The Ritz to an intimate crowd. They were on an off-night from a lengthy trek with the Deftones and Incubus, part of a spree of nostalgic summer shows where millennials pay the bills of bands to whom they used to chug Sparks.
I had never seen DFA 1979 before, and there is something borderline terrifying about seeing a band you’ve loved for so long for the first time, especially when you worry that they won’t live up to your childlike hype. We’re both older now, after all.
DFA 1979 is Jesse Keeler on bass and synths and Sebastien Grainger on drums. They’re known for speedy rock, conducive for most any bar or dance party. I had to give their long-awaited reconciliation LP, last year’s The Physical World
, a few listens before I could actually accept it as a DFA album. It didn’t have the same hard tunes that made me fall in love with the band, reminding me more of Grainger’s solo work—dramatic lyricism with strong vocals and a lot of drums.
On the heels of that record, and at all of our advanced ages, I was wondering if the two could still bring their hits to the stage with the same intensity that I witnessed in decade-old YouTube videos. Indeed, Grainger still has that voice, and his modern Freddie Mercury wail over Keeler’s distorted bass notes killed on the new stuff. The crowd wasn’t familiar with all of it, but these songs were more exciting live than on record. Keeler has perfected his bow-legged bass stance, too, and Grainger is a master multi-tasker, singing along as he keeps the beat going hard.
The Monday night crowd finally managed to get a little wild to a few essential DFA staples from the past. I wish they played more of those earlier songs, but they had an album to push. By the end of their set, the crowd actually wanted another encore. But it was a Monday night. We were adults, and some of us had to go to work the next morning to help pay the mortgage.