Death From Above + The Beaches @ Corona Theatre – 20th October 2017

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death from above montreal

Corona Theatre seems to be treating to us to the very best Canadian Alternative on offer at the moment. Last weekend was Born Ruffians and The New Pornographers, tomorrow is Japandroids, and tonight, three more. After DFA’s Sebastien Grainger’s side-project American Lips open the show (which I have to miss, on account of power-napping in readiness for tonight’s ridiculously late set times; more on that later…), its Toronto 4-piece The Beaches who are up next, with their brand of “fem-rock” (their words, not mine!) reminiscent of the all-girl outfits of the early 2000’s (Sahara Hotnights, or The Donnas, to name but two).

The Beaches Band Montreal
(Photo above – Simon Williams)

They start out in full-on rock mode, with hair flailing across the stage, before taking a bluesy turn 3 songs in. It’s all pretty slick too, with the guitarists pointing guitars at the crowd or turning heads towards each other in perfect sync at a couple of points throughout the 40-minute set, reminiscent of those 80s hair rock bands you probably remember. A lot of fun, and they surely won over more than a few new fans tonight.

Cheers greet the unveiling of the classic elephant-nosed artwork adorning the back of the stage, taken from Death From Above‘s seminal debut “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine” (and indeed every album since!) and there are even cheers when the roadie sound-checks the intro squeals of Turn It Out, the song which opened that record. The band soon lurch onto the stage and open with the stop-start intro of Nomad, alongside its Wolfmother-esque riffs and a spectacular light show around the stage that looks almost tribal in nature, with single lights circling the band as they thrash out the opener from the new “Outrage! Is Now” record.

death from above montreal bass

Virgins and Caught Up follow, before the floor really explodes into life for the afore-mentioned Turn It Out, and it’s ear-piercing squeals cut through the air once more. Slow-burning grunge number Moonlight slows things down again for a couple of songs, until Little Girl picks up the pace again, starting slow with Jesse Keeler’s riffs, before rumbling into life…the crowd follows suit.

Outrage! Is Now is the most drastic departure from the band’s trademark sound so far, with Sebastien emerging from behind his drum kit to a standalone mic stand at centre stage, to a sludgy beat emanating from Jesse’s keys that sounds a lot like the digital delay intro of Our Time Is Running Out by Muse. He sings there for the first part of the song with all the swagger of a bona fide frontman, before returning behind the drums for the song’s conclusion.

An explosive Holy Books and Freeze Me follow, getting the floor moving once more, though this is soon eclipsed by the monstrous Black History Month, which still sounds as amazing as it did in 2004. At this point, however, around 2/3 of the way through the set, people start to leave (and continue to do so after every song for the rest of the set). Seems a little crazy, but then you realize it’s beginning to approach midnight, and people are likely cognizant of the impending last metro. That’s because the headliners didn’t take to stage until 10.55pm, which seems insane in terms of scheduling…and it was scheduled that way, there weren’t any unforeseen occurrences to blame for such a late stage time (and hence my need to power-nap beforehand!). At $50 a ticket, you have to think these people would be disappointed to not see the whole show. It’s a real shame for them, and seems a little unnecessary to start so late, given the fact that Corona headliners usually go on around 9-9:30pm, wrapped up by 11-11:30pm, in plenty of time for the STM.

Ok, rant over, back to the show…

Trainwreck 1979, the song which heralded the band’s return in 2014 after their 10-year breakup, is still just as striking as it was when it was first unleashed onto the world, and leads right into the timeless Romantic Rights, which unsurprisingly gets the biggest response of the night, with the floor bouncing as the song breaks down midway through, with Sebastien on the mic as Jesse rumbles the riff. The Physical World closes out the main set in a flurry of multi-coloured lights.

The duo return for a brief encore of the Crystal Castles-sampling Dead Womb, and then following consultation with the crowd regarding what they wanted to hear, a frantic Pull Out closes out the show after 80 minutes at 12:15am.

Overall, it’s a great return, though in speaking with various people at the show, it’s unanimous that both band and crowd are not quite as intense as they used to be; who can forget that Osheaga reunion set in 2011?! Aside from a few exceptions during the set, tonight was a fairly sedate affair in comparison, but by no means a disappointing one.

death from above drums

Setlist:
Nomad
Virgins
Caught Up
Turn It Out
Moonlight
Always On
Little Girl
White Is Red
Outrage! Is Now
Holy Books
Freeze Me
Going Steady
Black History Month
Never Swim Alone
Trainwreck 1979
Romantic Rights
The Physical World

Encore
Dead Womb
Pull Out

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Ashley MacPhee

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