I have a difficult time saying no to concerts, even if it’s a band or artist that I wouldn’t typically attend on my own or wouldn’t go out of my way to buy tickets for — ask me some time about the multiple Kenny Chesney shows I’ve been to. While I wasn’t disinterested in seeing Death From Above (who seem to have recently dropped the 1979 part of their moniker) I’m not exactly what you’d call a superfan. I’m a huge fan of their latest album, Outrage Is Now!, but hadn’t listened to much of their older stuff at all except maybe a few songs here or there. One of my best friends invited me to come along with her to their show in Chicago on November 4th, though, so not wanting her to have to go solo and being at least pretty excited to hear some of my favorite songs from Outrage live, I thought, why the hell not?
Let me tell you, I am so glad I decided to go along.
The Venue: The Vic, Chicago, IL
Facebook claims I’ve checked in at The Vic once before, but I couldn’t tell you what the hell I saw there. I’ve been to a lot of shows in Chitown, so it’s possible I could forget having been there, but if I had it’s been so long that the venue was completely new to me. It’s in a wonderful location though, just a minute walk from the Brown Line, and even arriving right at 8:00 when the opener was starting we had no problem getting inside and finding a comfortable space at the front of the stage. This may have been due in part to the fact that the show wasn’t sold out, but the layout of the venue really helped contribute to it not feeling terribly cramped during the main event.
The only bummer was that, we assume due to recent events, we had to get wanded with a metal detector and also had a very rigorous pat-down before entering the theatre, though as frustrating as it was it was actually pretty great to see the venue taking the initiative to make sure that no one was going to be armed, which I did at least appreciate (even if the pat-down was more excessive than the one I received while trying to fly through O’Hare a little over a month ago.)
The Opener: The Beaches
As far as openers go, the ultra talented ladies of The Beaches come pretty damn close to topping off the list of favorite openers I’ve ever seen where I wasn’t already familiar with the artist. Though they channel the likes of The Distillers, Joan Jett, and the boys from Death From Above themselves, The Beaches goes hard with a sound that is entirely their own, and they were not afraid to let loose and enjoy the music onstage. With a clean, polished sound and one of the most incredible guitarists I’ve had the opportunity to watch play live, we had an absolute blast for their entire set and I dove in to their fresh-off-the-presses album as soon as I got home…which you can expect a review of very soon (but don’t wait for me, please go check it out now!)
The Main Event: Death From Above
Being a novice fan who had never seen the duo live before, I was impressed and surprised to see that it was just Jesse and Sebastien performing; with many named acts like Tegan & Sara bringing along entire large bands with them, one begins to expect extra band members along with the stars, but that was definitely not the case for these guys, which made the show all the more incredible. With one person on drums and lead vocals and the other on bass and keys with an incredible rig behind them, they manage to fill the entire venue with music that sounds like it’s coming from six men instead of just two, which made for a hell of a night — especially since each track was punctuated with laser show-quality lighting that was perfectly timed in a way I haven’t seen since Bastille back in 2015. We weren’t just there for the sound, we were there for the experience.
The gig kicked off with “Nomad,” the incredibly strong opening number from DFA’s latest album, a song that absolutely blew me out of the water from the first note. Jesse and Sebastien pack a hell of a punch in the studio, but seeing them live brought the track to a whole new level, as I found was the case with many of their other songs that I recognized from Outrage. It helped that they followed this up with “Caught Up,” which may easily be my favorite track other than “Freeze Me,” which was smartly held for later in the show. It’s worth examining that I’ve noticed a trend lately of bands saving their radio hits for the finale or the encore, which can be disappointing to newer fans, but Death From Above smartly used it for the third act of the set making for a nice surprise treat when we were least expecting it.
Rather than splitting the old and new, DFA chose to intersperse older songs in with the new record, which made for a very pleasant listening experience for those of us who are less familiar with their back catalog and made for some exciting moments for my friend, who has been a fan since way-back-when, though the transitions between songs and the similar styles used on each track meant that without the coherency of the pre-selected album order (you all know me by now, you know how much I love a good album order) some songs seemed to bleed from one into the next with no discernible way of telling when we had moved on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and most fans at the show seemed to be into it, but did contribute to my feeling less enthused at times—then again, it’s rare for me to attend shows where I’m so unfamiliar with the artist’s older work, so that may very well be primarily due to my own fault in not listening up more ahead of time.
There were several highlights during the show for me, including the incredible rainbow lighting during “The Physical World,” the Zeppelin-esque live version of “Outrage! Is Now” that included Sebastien stepping out from behind the drums to sing and play from the opposite side. We also had an incredible rendition of “Romantic Rights” featuring Eliza of The Beaches on drums (holy hell, you guys, this girl is talented) and some of my favorites from the new record such as “Never Swim Alone” and “Holy Books” really stood out on stage.
After the show, we had the pleasure of chatting with the boys in what was possibly one of the most genuinely friendly post-gig stage door experiences I’ve ever had; both Jesse and Sebastien were warm and welcoming, which further helped to cement them as a band I’m going to love to continue following through this chapter of their career. While I might not have picked the show myself, I’ll absolutely be trying to catch Death From Above when they cruise back through town… and The Beaches, who I hope to see headlining a gig of their own after too long.
If you’d like to catch Death From Above on tour, you can check out a current list of dates on their website, which at the time of posting goes through March 2018. Hopefully we’ll be seeing them on the road more next year as well, because I’d love to see these guys rock out again! You can also view a full setlist from the night’s show at setlist.fm if you’d like to see what you missed.
Were you at the show? Have you ever seen DFA or The Beaches live? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!