Death from Above 1979 performed the final UK show of their current tour at Brixton Academy on Friday 7th October 2011. The duo, who had reunited this year after a very public falling out six years ago, played all but one song of their only album, 2004’s You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, as well as a selection from their EP Heads Up and various B-sides. Drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger, dressed entirely in white and with bleached hair, struggled to hold it together through several of their songs, afterwards taking to Twitter to explain “I can’t sing, play drums and ponder the concept of syncopation at the same time.”
It’s just as well he didn’t attempt to make that excuse in front of the audience, who could barely make out Sebastien’s attempts at banter between songs due to the strangely low volume and excessive reverb on the vocals. Fortunately bassist and keyboardist Jesse F. Keeler, all in black, was on form, or there could have been a repeat of the riots that took place at the first of their comeback shows in Austin, Texas earlier this year.
There were calls from the crowd to play something new, and also to play ‘Sexy Results’, a popular track from the album that the band never perform live. Sebastien’s response was that “You can go home and listen to that one on your own”. The lack of new material was expected, but still a disappointment.
The band’s biggest crowd-pleaser, ‘Romantic Rights’, was saved until the penultimate song of a set which was, as far as I could remember, exactly the same as that which they had performed on their pre-breakup trip to England in 2005. It was during this song that Grainger, as usual, abandoned the drum kit and finally engaged the crowd in singing along to the chorus lyric of “I don’t need you, I want you” as he slapped hands down at the front of the stage and Keeler played the same distorted bass riff for what must have been about ten minutes.
This was followed by ‘Do It!’, during which it was Keeler’s turn to let loose and entertain the audience, playing bass behind his head one minute, singing into a vocoder he was playing with his right hand whilst playing bass with his left the next. Again Grainger struggled with the drumming, suggesting that since the breakup he hasn’t exactly been practising his rudiments, but it was just enough to leave the Brixton crowd wanting a bit more as they left the stage.
Finally, during the encore, the band came into their own, performing first ‘You’re Lovely (But You’ve Got Lots of Problems)’ and then the closer ‘Losing Friends’. Playing at a much higher standard than they had managed earlier in the evening, it seemed at that point like they wanted to carry on but had simply run out of songs.