Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Antlers @ Brighton The Hope

It’s Brooklyn’s The Antlers second visit to Brighton in just over three months, this time selling out The Hope some weeks before the gig was due. The reason for the full venue is simple - their album Hospice. With Hospice The Antlers have undoubtedly produced one of the most absorbing and sonically powerful indie rock recordings of the year. It has attained significant critical acclaim and continues to slowly build a profile in the UK, much of it through word of mouth and recommendation.

For this live show The Antlers concentrate on material from that album, the sound raw, evocative and if anything more cataclysmic than the recorded versions. Drenched in reverby guitar work that glides in and out of focus and carried by lead singer Peter Silberman’s haunted scratchy falsetto, the songs from Hospice provide a bleak but strangely euphoric emotional resonance that leads to at least two grown men hugging each other for comfort in the crowd. The Antlers live sound is not just something to listen to, it’s something to feel, to completely and utterly immerse yourself in.

The opening songs of Kettering and Sylvia, probably two of the most powerful pieces on the album, open the set and seem almost throwaway compared to what follows thereafter. Tense stabs of guitar are matched with moments of quiet, sad intimacy to create a superb show that really makes us want to use words such as epic and awesome to describe the three piece; except that these days those words are so often over used that they lose meaning. However this is exactly what The Antlers are like live. Epic, awesome, and worthy of such words. Live, Antlers produce the kind of music that grabs your heart and envelopes you in its howling grief. When Silberman sings “There’s a bear inside your stomach, a cub’s been kicking from within. He’s loud, though without vocal chords, we’ll put an end to him,” on Bear, it’s desperately sorrowful, yet because of the music seems poignantly beautiful.

As the bands set climaxes with expansive layers of guitar noise the audience, who at the start seem particularly reserved will not let them go without an encore. It’s utterly deserved and when Silberman returns with Epilogue and sings “So I lie down against your back, until we’re both back in the hospital. But now it’s not a cancer ward, we’re sleeping in the morgue,” before the song progresses and swells to a dramatic conclusion, it’s impossible not to be drawn in, the same way we slow down to watch a car crash on the motorway - brutal, tragic and yet darkly mesmerising.

We suspect that the next time The Antlers visit Brighton they will have to play a significantly larger venue than The Hope.

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