It was October 2011. Death From Above 1979 had reformed after a five-year hiatus and were playing London. A merry bunch of us boarded a plane to Heathrow knowing that a night of watching our lost heroes perform in the flesh would be capped off in the wee hours by the scintillating prospect of Ireland beating Wales in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. Still sweaty from live rock bliss, we’d watch the match in an early house after a whopper evening enjoying the sights and sounds of the lively metropolis. That was the plan.
What ensued was a night that none of us can bring ourselves to talk about now, a 24-hour, wallet-rogering nightmare of bad venue decisions, endless taxi journeys, triumphant Welsh whoops and even, hilariously, a missed flight home. Oh, and DFA1979 stank out Brixton Academy. Jump forward four and a half years and it all seems unimaginable. Ireland sit fourth in the world rankings. London has been more than accommodating during subsequent visits. And as if they know they owe me one, DFA1979 are unrecognisable tonight in the Academy, conjuring distilled thunder and lightning like a pair of brattish Norse gods.
A fortnight before Royal Blood are due to take the stage in the Olympia, the Toronto duo show what it is really possible with four strings and a couple of drumsticks, snapping off jolts of thrashy power that never seem to derail on the tight bends. ‘Cheap Talk’ (from last year’s second studio LP The Physical World) is punk-funk’s ruffian sibling. ‘Go Home, Get Down’ sounds like some twitchy bastard of Justice and The Blood Brothers, and no one could complain about that. ‘White Is Red’, another new highlight, shows that DFA1979 can drop from their customary breakneck tempos and still sound like an event.
How did it not work all those years ago? Just look at them: on stage right, Sebastien Grainger sits behind a small kit and spits petulant romance through the din. All he wears are brilliant white dungarees. Opposite him, bleeding grey into the space between them, is the black-clad Jesse F Keeler. Arguably his generation’s most distinct bassist, Keeler cuts a kind of hipster dark lord as he releases that serrated purr on ‘Little Girl’, all writhing precision fretwork and hard-hitting plectrum percussion. They are hard rock’s yin and yang. They even swig their mid-song beers in unison.
The hordes can chant “one more tune” all they like – there’s about three that must be aired to help offset the wrongs of that night in London. Naturally enough, they play two of them – ‘The Physical World’, the disco crunch of ‘Romantic Rights’ – putting to bed the idea that Canadians are pushovers. Everyone pours out into the street, where all seems right with the world.