It was strikingly chilly in the Commodore Ballroom compared to the rather hot and humid weather that dominated the outdoors. There was a a cloud of haze and smoke covering the venue as Murray A. Lightburn took the stage. Lightburn is best known as the frontman of Canadian indie rock band The Dears but tonight was just Lightburn and his guitar. His set was a fairly mellow acoustic performance and I worried that he’d have a hard time connecting to an audience expecting a rambunctious rock n’ roll show. Lightburn held his own though, reaching the audience on a more intimate level. Big cheers came when he performed The Dears’ “Death of Life We Want You” which contains the lyric “Just when you think you’ve had enough, here comes more death from up above.” Lightburn paused and the crowd erupted into cheers.
Death From Above took the stage just after 9 o’clock launching into their debut EP “Head’s Up”, which opens with the absolute barn burner of a song “Dead Womb”. The crowd that had been relatively reserved during Lightburn’s set lost all control, jumping off each other, head banging, and screaming. If you were in the centre of the crowd, you were going to be moshing. The show kicked off the “Heads Up! Is Now” tour, where the band blasts through the six-song EP from 2002 (which had been given a vinyl release this year), followed by a series of songs and fan favourites from the rest of their output. The energy heard on the bands records, specifically on “Heads Up”, is not lost in a live setting, in fact it’s amped up to ten. The amazing thing about Death From Above is that, between just two people, they’re able to create such a wall of sound. Jesse F. Keeler, dressed in all black like a silhouette in front of a wall of amps with his lucite Dan Armstrong bass brings all the fuzz and more with a fierce tone not for the faint of heart. Sebastien Grainger, possibly the most fashionable man in Canadian rock, sits high on his drum throne, bashing the skins to combat Keeler’s oncoming onslaught of fuzz bass like they’re in a constant battle to create the bigger noise, ultimately complimenting each other.
After the band wrapped up the “Head’s Up” EP and played a few more fan favourites, Grainger told the crowd, “We’re here to play the hits! Or just the hit. Ah, we’ll just play this stupid one” kicking into the band’s radio hit “Freeze Me” from their last record “Outrage! Is Now”. The band continued the onslaught with another 10 or so songs from their discography before calling it a night, leaving the crowd more than satisfied.
Ultimately, it’s a miracle to me that the floor of the Commodore didn’t fall through, as the entire audience was jumping up and down for the entire show and the venue was noticeably shaking.
Obviously, the concert didn’t disappoint, Death From Above is amped up to max volume and that’s reflected in their performance and in the audience’s reaction. Death From Above, as two hyperactive men, know that the humour of a big rock show is inherent in the playing of it. There are no winks or nudges. Death From Above remind us what a good rock n’ roll show should be.