Last Tuesday, Death from Above 1979 and Eagles of Death Metal joined forces on a dream bill and delivered pummelling, swaggering rock at the PNE Forum.
The bill also featured Toronto’s Biblical, but they weren’t exactly a fit. A crimson halo hung over the no-nonsense four-piece as they conjured swampy blues with spasms of heady guitars stitched together by lingering note-picked doomsday interludes.
A mighty cheer escaped as stagehands erected EODM’s banner. Cartoon versions of front-person Jesse Hughes dressed as Uncle Sam pointing “I ONLY WANT YOU” flanked the band’s logo. As “Taking Care of Business” blared through the house speakers, Hughes emerged dancing and singing the song off-mic, wrapped in a red royal robe which he quickly discarded to reveal his suspenders and hot pink tee.
The first song, “I Only Want You”, had barely started, and fans had already begun aggressively whipping off their shirts and hurling the garments onto the concrete floor.
Eagles boogied through “Complexity”, “Whorehoppin’ (Shit, Goddamn)”, and “The Reverend” before Hughes finally addressed the crowd. “We just wanna shake our dick and have a good time and make Little Richard proud!”
After “Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.)” came the first shout-out to the Lower Mainland of the night. “I mean this from the bottom of my heart: I made some of my best friends around this area right here,” Hughes said. He continued with a story from his youth. “When I was about 22 years old I hitchhiked to the border here to the Tsawwassen ferry.” To his luck, a driver picked him up, gave him a nanaimo bar and 20 bucks, and sent him on his way. “Anywhere else, I’d probably be suckin’ that old man’s dick,” Hughes predicted, emphasizing our Canadian hospitality.
The crowd loved the shouts (and of course the tunes) but didn’t start surfing until “Wannabe in L.A.”. Nor did they start singing along until “I Want You So Bad (Boy’s Bad News)”.
Undoubtedly, what they loved most was when Hughes descended from the stage during “Speaking in Tongues” and played his way into the bleachers on the right side of the venue. He shredded and shredded and upon returning to the stage battled the other guitarist until the very end, convening once more in a final verse. EODM left the bobbing sea of heads and fists jacked up, fluffing them until DFA took over.
The stagehands returned wheeling out a gigantic light-up set piece shaped like DFA’s twin-headed logo. The crowd popped even harder for this than for EODM’s banner.
And when security began passing out earplugs, it quickly became clear: shit was on.
Visually, DFA’s set felt cold and industrial. Shafts and sheets of blinding white light immersed the duo – fitting given the robotic voice clips that recited pieces of news broadcasts and utopian slogans for healthy living between songs and their first album’s machine motif. Think Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier”.
The strobes were intense, but DFA themselves were paralyzing. The bleacher seats shook. My teeth chattered in my skull during “Right On, Frankenstein!”. The slow ringing out of metallic notes that introduces “Cheap Talk” drilled a hole through my chest. In my periphery, a fan turned to her friend with her mouth dangling agape, no doubt feeling the pulmonary pressure too. One fan mentioned after the show that he felt DFA in his nostrils.
Like EODM, DFA recounted some of their formative experiences in Vancouver. Drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger shouted out the Alf House where they played, he estimated, their third show ever (besides Long Island and Boston). “It’s like a vegan anarchist house,” he explained to the uninitiated. “Anyone here at that show? Anyone? Any vegan anarchists here?” The response was lacklustre, so he wasted no more time trying to suss out their ancient fans and tore through newer cut “Gemini”.
As if allowing fans a breather before plunging into breakout hit “Romantic Rights”, which DFA knew would ignite the wildest response, the band momentarily relented on the punishing speed and volume with “White Is Red”.
As part of the encore, DFA treated fans to the rare (as in never before played live) “Sexy Results”. “People have been requesting that song since we made it. That was the first time we played it. Right there,” Jesse Keeler informed the crowd. “That was pretty good,” he said to Grainger, seeking agreement. “Eh,” the drummer shrugged.
Living up to the hype of fantasy concert booking, the essentially co-headlining Death from Above 1979 and Eagles of Death Metal were nothing to merely shrug at.
Final note: Shout-outs must be reciprocated to Jesse Hughes who hung out at the forum’s load-in bay for God-knows-how-long after the entire show. He took all the time he had (and maybe didn’t have) to pose for photos exactly the way fans wanted him to, sign merchandise and personal effects, pass out EODM guitar picks, and chat. And when fans went in for handshakes, he bypassed their extended hands and lunged in with a hearty hugs. Shit, Goddamn! He’s a man, he’s a man!