“We are the army you see through the red haze of Blood, blood, blood, blood!”
When Liars played Primavera a couple of years back they took to the ATP stage and thanked Neil Young for opening for them. Unfortunately festival fatigue had set in to such an extent that the only option was to watch them from a seated position on the overlooking hill, this isn’t a band that lends itself to detached observation. Luckily tonight is the complete opposite, as the intimate environs of Whelan’s plays host to what is surely a contender for gig of the year.
Before all that, a word on the support acts. Logikparty haven’t been gigging a year yet, but they’re easily one of the most exciting bands on the domestic scene at the moment: the white-hot intensity of their no-wave-influenced sound is matched by frontwoman Benni’s shrill, piercing vocals; caustic, abrasive guitars and pummelling, insistent rhythms make for an intoxicating brew. Cap Pas Cap are also superb. There’s a definite new wave influence on their sound, with one song in particular reminiscent of New Young Pony Club. What surprises tonight is how scuzzy and menacing the tunes are, particularly the last song – amazing!
As soon as Liars get down to business it’s clear that they’re not going to be upstaged. Lead vocalist Angus Andrew is an imposing figure: a giant of a man and a ringer for Nick Cave with a somewhat psychotic glint in his eyes. He makes a compelling frontman and a perfect focal point for their unpredictable sonic excursions. Tonight sees the band in ferocious rock-out mode for the most part. Current album Sisterworld provides the bulk of the set, and the trio have been expanded to a five-piece to beef up the feral guitar assaults that characterise the record.
Freak-outs like ‘Scarecrows on a Killer Slant’, ‘The Overachievers’ and ‘Scissor’ sound even more unhinged here than they do on record, all pummelling percussion and distorted guitars with Andrew coming on like a deranged preacher (“How can they be saved from the way they live every day??” ). It’s not all full-on. Tunes like ‘No Barrier Fun’ and ‘Here Comes All The People’ ooze with inner-city tension and dread, while there’s also an atmospheric run-through of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ and the dreamy harmonies of ‘The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack’ to showcase Liars’ range. An amazing, hypnotic version of ‘A Visit from Drum’ is one of the highlights of the evening, its percussive patterns casting a voodoo-like spell; a pounding ‘Plaster Casts of Everything’, meanwhile, crushes everything in its path.
For the encore, Liars revert to a three-piece and turn to the more textured, experimental sonic template of their earlier material, turning in an incandescent version of ‘Broken Witch’ that’s remarkable for its spirit-channelling intensity. They receive a rousing ovation, and rightly so: tonight Whelan’s witnesses a band at the very top of their game.
Video by TrigFilms.