Show Review: Editors with The Antlers and The Dig at the Ogden
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Being the night before Valentine’s Day didn’t stop the Ogden from filling up with couples and groups of over-dressed women. When Editors stopped through Denver on February 13th, the near-capacity crowd braved the breezy night to see one of the U.K.’s biggest names. Although the show lacked the energy of a big name dance act, Editors performed with confidence and control and made clear why they belong at the top of this bill.
The night began with the virtually unknown New York quartet, The Dig. On their first major tour and without a full length release behind them, The Dig generated enough internet buzz to land a series of tour stops with both Editors and Portugal. The Man and have already shared a stage with bands like the Walkmen, White Rabbits, and the XX. They play songs without flash or fanfare, but with complexity that has the appearance of simplicity. Layered guitars and simple two part harmonies with occasional keyboard riffs combine to create something familiar but fresh. Comparisons to fellow New Yorker’s the Strokes are clearly warranted, both in their uneventful performance as well as their sound. Still when singer David Baldwin mentioned a show in Denver at the Bluebird on March 26th, the music impressed me enough to make a note of it. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about them as their biggest tour to date progresses.
Next we moved across the East River to Brooklyn’s The Antlers. Why this band is popular I can understand. They’re artists that execute a vision that’s both difficult to play and different from most. Unfortunately, singer Peter Silberman’s operatic voice had more whine than a meeting of the First Wives Club. And their forty-minute set consisted of only five songs – about three more than I cared to watch. The monotonous song structures that always ended with a grandiose flourish of effects gave every track an anti-climactic predictability. Certainly they can play their instruments and keyboardist Michael Lerner is as busy with his feet as he is with his hands, but even the over-enthused drunk couple that jumped up and down through every track felt insincere. Something about Silberman’s sad songs never rang true with me and I found myself waiting for him to stop his babbling much more than I was waiting for the next song.
Finally, Birmingham’s finest took the stage. Editors brought enough keys that calling them “Janitors” might be more appropriate, especially since they cleaned up the mess Antlers left behind. This is a road tested rock band with three solid releases behind them, and the complexities of their stage setup allow them to accurately replicate the sound of their albums. Not surprisingly, their massive popularity throughout Europe has resulted in a polished, professional stage performance. What was a surprise was the staid and measured response from the crowd. Even when the band disappeared in anticipation of the customary encore, the crowd did little to bring them back. For music that has so many danceable aspects – from the pounding bass drum beats to the lavish electronics – few seemed interested in booty shaking. Musically, they have a distinct Joy Division flavor – a band not known for their rainbows and sunshine. Singer Tom Smith did his best to foster the tortured artist image, hunching low across the keys as he crooned in a mono-tone not unlike Ian Curtis’. He fell to the floor. He strained at the neck. He stood in crooked poses and screamed even when he wasn’t near a mic. All told, they probably played close to twenty songs in about an hour and a half.
As valentines of all varieties streamed out of the venue, I couldn’t help but think that this band would be a lot more fun to see in a country where they’re more popular. In terms of performances, all three acts played exceptionally well, but all night it felt like something was missing. Looking around at the couples huddling together to avoid the whip of the winter wind, I realized what it was. Preoccupied with their partners, the interest of the crowd just wasn’t there the way it should have been. Put this same lineup in a club in Belgium and we all would have been sweaty before we left the venue, instead of just after. That’s Valentine’s Day for you: a bunch of people out only for traditions sake, with no real stake in what they’re doing. Wow, I can’t wait for next year.