It’s been a while since Death From Above 1979 played in Milwaukee. To be more specific, it’s been 10 and a quarter years since the Canadian “dance-punk” duo dropped by Mad Planet for a weeknight performance that a seven-years defunct music blog called Tastes Like Chicken described to be “loud as fuck and goddamn nonstop” when the band visited town in belated support of 2004’s breakout studio debut You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. Some 123 months, one break-up, a reunion, and another full-length later, Death From Above 1979 made its long-awaited Milwaukee return Wednesday night with a lively 18-song, 70-minute Turner Hall set that was almost worth the wait.
Before DFA’s first local show of the decade, area synth-pop favorites GGOOLLDD played an opening set that was billed to be the band’s final Milwaukee show of 2015. Save for some technical issues with cape-donning singer Margaret Butler and some feedback during closer, “Gold”, the band ended what was an epic run of recent local shows on a strong note, highlighted by the bouncing summer single “Boyz” and synth-slathered slow jam “Killing Times.” As odd as the pairing seemed on paper, GGOOLLDD proved to be a good way to ease into the heavy storm of distortion that awaited the audience. Barely backlit with sparse streams of white light, singer/drummer Sebastien Grainger and bass/synth player Jesse Keeler roundhouse kicked Death From Above’s set into gear with frantic and fierce You’re A Woman… opener “Turn It Out” before chasing it with an out-of-order run through The Physical World‘s first three songs and, then debut full-length title track “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine.”
That pattern of alternating between old material and new songs continued throughout the show, with seven songs hailing from the penultimate release, 1o from The Physical World, and the ancient-and-abrasive Heads Up track “Dead Womb,” which served as a satisfying setlist shakeup for thankful diehards strewn throughout the respectably-sized audience. For the most part, DFA was just as sludgy and harsh as fans have grown to expect and appreciate. However, some songs (particularly the usually bass-driven and ballsy “Crystal Ball”) sounded more gaunt and neutered than their recorded counterparts. Aside from those rare and brief semi-disappointments, though, the duo doled out most of their material at or beyond album quality and energy level, complete with between song loops and occasional mid-song interludes.
Following the band’s half-assed attempt to act as if the show was over that berthed a light “D-F-A” chant amongst some Turner Hall ticketholders, those initials’ owners returned to play “Push It” and an extended version of its biggest song, “Romantic Rights” before calling it a night with truly unexpected-yet-solid closer, “The Physical World.” No, they didn’t play “Blood On Our Hands” or “Black History Month” but, thankfully, they also kept the abysmal “Sexy Results” in their pockets. It wasn’t the life-altering event some spent a decade imagining it’d be, but for a band tasked with simultaneously playing a reunion concert and a show to move units of a 10-month-old record in a secondary market, Death From Above 1979 played both roles more-than-capably during this rowdy Wednesday resurrection. So long as it’s not another 10 years between shows, DFA and Milwaukee have every reason to be on good terms.
Turn It Out
Right On, Frankenstein
You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine
Go Home, Get Down
White Is Red
The Physical World