Death from Above 1979 at the Independent, by Jon Ching

Touring with their first album in ten years, Death From Above 1979 brought the same raw, manic, punk-rock energy that initially earned the Canadian duo the cult status they acquired since their breakup in 2006. With plenty of fresh material from The Physical World (released earlier this year), like the driving earworm “Trainwreck”, and diehard fans that have been not-so patiently waiting at least three years for another live show, it’s awesome that Death From Above has chosen to play smaller clubs, where their visceral, gut-punch performance isn’t lost in the nosebleeds or balconies. To still be able to see the sweat droplets fly from Jesse Keeler’s face and the spit from Sebastien Grainger’s mouth is incredible and what live music is about.

Surprisingly though, even at a show that sold out in under five minutes and had tickets going for a minimum of $150 on Craigslist, SF’s crowd was, except for the very front, disappointingly calm for the first half of the show. At one point, Keeler called out the folks sitting down on side, questioning if they were having fun and using the front of the crowd as an example of acceptable behavior. Grainger backed up his sentiments saying, “If you’re not sweatin’ you weren’t here!” Surely, it’s due in part to the fact that people are just not yet as familiar with the songs from their new album and not as passionately nostalgic as they are for every bass screech on You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.

The crowd definitely stepped it up in an encore that, refreshingly, took a while. Recently, it seems common practice for the encore to be obligatory, with the band re-emerging in less than a minute to applause that competes with conversations. But last night’s crowd had to work for it through moments of doubt to get a few more. And they made up for their previous mellow demeanor. The center started the chaotic pit with others joining from the peripherals to get a bit sweaty before the night was done.

Ultimately, Death From Above has maintained the methodical recklessness and full-speed virtuosity that makes them feel eternally relevant. Their time away fades from memory and you pick up right where you left off, which reaffirms why you loved them so much in the first place. As the band declared on their website in the announcement of their imminent return: “We have been writing new songs, and the only way we feel like we can make them any good is to go out and play them for people the way we used to.” Death From Above has succeeded.

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