THE CORNER HOTEL
One scan of the audience and you can tell that there will be a lot of taxis heading north after this show. Quite how so many kids have heard these bands given the scant radio play they’ve received is testament to the power of Pitchfork. Those here tonight have passion to burn, even if the red curtain has been drawn, halving the venue’s capacity, due no doubt to the number of other Laneway sideshows elsewhere.
Switching playing order from gig to gig, tonight sees Bear in Heaven in the earlier slot and clearly not the band most people are here to see. Whether it’s a sound issue or the nature of their songs, there is a BiH ‘sound’ from which there is little deviation, and it rarely sees its elements evolve from a saturating density; little dynamics, heavy basslines, huge synth pads, constant busy drumming and simpering vocals that grow stronger as the gig goes on. It’s a sound that works on record, but as with tonight’s headliners, translating suffusing atmospherics into a compelling gig is a difficult task. Ultimate Satisfaction sees singer Jon Philpot struggling for high notes in a way that seems weak at first, but soon becomes an asset as his voice gamely rides the churning mass of music and whole thing comes together beautifully. Elements fall into place on the simpler Lovesick Teenagers too and also soars as a result.
'You guys are like the Brooklyn of Australia right?’ says Philpot partway through the set, during one of his ‘whisky breaks’. ‘That's cool. Brooklyn’s cool,' his baritone voice cracks, in counterpoint to his quavering tenor when singing. 'This next song goes out to Triple R...and Triple J' he says, launching into the closing Beast in Peace.
The front few rows of the crowd are full of iPhone-wielding 20-somethings clearly a little nervous. Can The Antlers pull of the translation of their delicate and harrowing album Hospice in a live setting? Is it even possible?
Thankfully the anticipation is diffused by the band entering to the bursting strains of Huey Lewis and The News’s The Power of Love and we realize that this band do fun. ‘This is our first night in front of fans, says singer Peter Silberman, ‘we mean wind fans, not you, we thought we might look stupid, but…it’s OK,’ he says drily before the sounds of Kettering overtake the audience’s laughter. With both Silberman and keyboardist Darby Cicci hemmed in by layers of pedals, they slash at the instruments giving the songs their all, using their pedals as much as conventional instruments. Arrangements for songs are thrown out the window as they push dynamic shifts and only Siliberman’s crystalline searing voice roots the songs in the realms we know. Sylvia is hammered home, fans scream the lyrics back at the band, Bear becomes a near-Christmas carol until its all-subsuming chorus hits. Two is taken from a steady brittle guitar chug into an epic tempestuous harmony-laden swathe of atmospherics that serve the piercing ache of the song beautifully. One of the most therapeutic albums of recent years is treated with the respect it’s deserved and few concessions are made to allow it to be just as compelling live.
When Silberman forgets the words, twice, during Wake it’s a testament to the love the audience have for him that a chilling narrative isn’t broken, rather everyone cracks up and starts trying to help him out. Drummer Michael Lerner asks if anyone is up for an apartment swap from Brooklyn to Melbourne, which several people take him up on straight away. The band leave, the crowd bay for more, they return and play a staggeringly beautiful version of Epilogue and sell a LOT of merch. Tonight was a sweet taste of Brooklyn.