Death From Above 1979 are back. Judging from the Nathan Phillips Square performance last Sunday, Toronto could not be happier. I arrived during the tail end of BadBadBotGood’s set to find that people in the crowd were already starting to shift inconspicuously toward the front of the DFA stage, where the mosh pit would later live. A few minutes later I really wished I had done the same when I looked around me and suddenly found that I had less than a foot of space between myself and the person standing next to me. It was way too late to be front and center, but no external factors were going to change my mood. I was just happy to be there.
The crowd started calling the band to the stage, chanting “DFA!”. When Jesse and Sebastian showed up the everyone lost it. The duo brought the same hyperactive energy fans have come to expect from them; owning the stage like they always do both in sound and in attitude, and making being a two-piece look easy. I love seeing the chemistry they have together. It has clearly been heightened over the years. There were a few moments when they turned towards each other and did little drum and bass face-offs. That was really fun to watch. Nothing about the Death From Above 1979 formula has changed. Sebastian’s vocals are composed of intensity and swagger. The bass is thick, heavy, distorted and grooving. The drumming is on point and the synth adds a dance element that is a vital part of the sound. In DFA’s case change clearly wasn’t what was needed. After the hiatus I don’t think anyone wanted change. They just wanted more.
Towards the beginning of the show, the sound was unbelievably quiet. People kept yelling “turn it up!”. Roughly forty five minutes later, the volume did get turned up, which was great for the other half of the set. Yes, I did say half of the set. They played for an hour and a half. Apparently, they were under contract to keep it up until the fireworks started. It made the audience happy, but DFA were hurting by the end. They took quite a few talking breaks to compensate for time. Sebastien talked about a wide range of topics, anything he could think of it seemed like. He told us that his mom was there and that he was nervous. He said that he was happy we were there because he had been worried no one was going to show up that night (yea right). We even touched on politics a bit when he told the crowd “Sometimes I say really inappropriate things, but look we’re at Toronto city hall. We’re used to hearing inappropriate things from here!”.
At one point there was a really long pause and then out of the blue he nervously said “…. I really want to hear what Jesse has to say!”. Jesse didn’t have too much to say. Shortly thereafter they starting taking requests; by then they clearly had no idea what they were going to play. I think everyone was pretty understanding when they didn’t respond to calls for an encore.
They played a little bit of everything from their discography on Sunday. People were really responsive to songs off the new album, The Physical World, especially the singles. This was probably the first time many people had heard that album live, so of course they went psycho for it. It was amazing to see Death From Above 1979 with great new material out and doing their thing again. Now that they’re back I just can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us.
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Review by Thea McKay