all photos: Ryan Wakeman
Liars lead singer Angus Andrew has been a proverbial hot mess over the past couple of months. After throwing out his back prior to the start of this tour, Andrew had to pull out of a show in Philadelphia last Saturday due to a stomach bug. This put the D.C. Tour date in a little bit of jeopardy – but the hulkingly-tall lead singer, for better or worse, was well enough to try and rock the 9:30 club on Tuesday.
Liars didn’t bring out the crowd that I thought might appear – the stage was brought forward, and there was a decent amount of available space in the house. And although I expected the crowd to be fully into what was going on, due to the intense brand of prog-rock that Liars produces, my view from the balcony indicated to me a relatively stable, inanimate crowd (more on this later).
Andrew looked like he was on strings the entire night. Due to his back injury and recent illness, he performed on a stool, occasionally getting up to awkwardly dance around on stage. When he was sitting, Andrew looked like a marionette controlled by a dyslexic – but when he actually made an effort to get up, it was great, and left me wondering what an unhindered performance would’ve been like. It was especially great when Andrew threw ‘bos and smashed imaginary faces with his fists to the drumline.
I’ll be blunt – the performance was just dreadful, but I wonder how much of that can be attribute to Andrew’s condition.I’ve always been a huge fan of this band – “Mr. You’re On Fire Mr.” accompanied me on many, angry teenage expressway drives through Ohio. But the set list chosen by Liars for this show was absolutely atrocious for the most part, with a few notable exceptions. It seemed like Andrew selected songs for a post-rock pot-smoking session rather than a stand up and fist-shaking concert experience.
The concert had two highlights – an absolutely piercingly clear rendition of “The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack” that parted the clouds for a moment before diving into an utterly mundane encore, and a tweaked version of “We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Our Own,” with a bad-ass synthesizer line that played a much more dominant role than on the studio version of the record.
However, the band stuck to mostly mundane material on their newest, self-titled record with some songs being completely and utterly bastardized, such as “Pure Unevil,” which had something to do with the drummer’s girlfriend, if you could make out anything of his horrific attempt of witty stage banter with the crowd.
The most reaction I saw of the crowd was a shoe (or possibly sock – hard to tell from my vantage point) toss exchange that kept taking place between the band and someone in the crowd.
And when a flying foot article generates the biggest pack of action at a concert, that’s definitely a cause for concern. Nevermind the meandering drums and the wall of bass – this show was just boring, plain and simple.
I still love Liars as a studio band, but after seeing them on Tuesday, now I know better than to trek out and see them again.