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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Antlers Soundtrack a Beautiful Breakdown at Great American

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Peter Silberman of the Antlers
  • Peter Silberman of the Antlers

The Antlers

May 31, 2011

@ Great American Music Hall

Better Than: Actually being the subject of an Antlers song

The May 10 release of the Antlers' Burst Apart provoked some very specific imagery for what kind of live experience the Brooklyn band would offer. From its effortless opening chords, you could picture the Antlers as the closing band in some off-the-strip Vegas lounge. A man in a cheap white tux would saunter onstage and lazily introduce them as "the band that will take you through the night," and unassuming frontman Peter Silberman would launch into his own particular brand of cinematic rock -- one that would take listeners on the brink of "down and out" and invite them toward comforting, personal stories that were unafraid to cover death, love, and physical disintegration in specific, yet rejuvenating ways.

As it turns out, the imagery suggested by the band's record translated almost perfectly in between the cheaply gluttonous walls of Great American Music Hall. Playing all but one song from Burst Apart, the Antlers captured the record's melodramatic mystique with the comfort of a lounge act, yet all of the emotional fragility of the bedroom pop outfit from which the band originated. The live setting also allowed the band to break free from the condensed song structures offered on the record. Shoegazing soundscapes peppered many of the band's interludes, and Silberman and keyboardist Darby Cicci took turns looping guitar lines, feedback drones, and everything in between.

The result was a much more expansive soundtrack than any Antlers studio work could provide. Harrowing opener "Parentheses" reverberated with sirenlike shrieks that echoed through the hall, while "Hounds" worked its way toward the opposite end of the band's harmonic spectrum, moving lightly through arpeggiated guitar lines while Silberman gently crooned in his ever-present falsetto.

The Antlers at Great American
  • The Antlers at Great American

For all their experimentation, though, the Antlers never fully abandoned the attention to detail of their recorded work. Part of the intrigue of Burst Apart is its ability to make an impression but not overstay its welcome. In a set that lasted barely over an hour, the Antlers seemed to find a solid medium between ornamentation and brevity. The songs they included from 2009's Hospice, Silberman's tragic solo opus, were often sped up or made more poppy so that fans wouldn't lose attention, while the already brief Burst Apart tracks were not abbreviated further but allowed space to groove more freely.

The true star of the evening was Silberman and his nearly faultless vocal performance. One concern entering the evening was that his voice would waver limply, as the lo-fi production of Hospice often allowed it to. This was quickly dashed, as Silberman blazed confidently through "Parentheses" and "Kettering," a heartbreaking, whispered track from Hospice he turned into a boldly proclaimed arrival. Although his lyrics spoke of hospital beds and brutally proclaimed that "I didn't believe them when they told me that there was no saving you," his voice resonated boldly, never allowing the listener to fall apart that early in the show.

Only near the end did Silberman finally let his vocal performance slip. A singular vocal crack during the ballad "Putting the Dog to Sleep" recalled the subject matter's disturbing content; eventually the disciplined falsetto broke down entirely during the closer, "Wake," and transformed into a torrential, emotive wail.

Peter Silberman of the Antlers
  • Peter Silberman of the Antlers

The imagery of a closing band at a Vegas casino was all too appropriate, because as controlled as the Antlers could make human imperfection sound, they could never eliminate the fatalism of Silberman's lyrics about hospice workers, dying loved ones, and aborted dreams. In the end, the group's best-laid plans would always devolve into murmurs of "Some patients can't be saved, but that burden's not on you" and shouts of "Don't ever let anyone tell you you deserve that." Looking around the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday night, you could tell that the Antlers' audience could relate.

Tamed Tenderloin: After asking the audience to quiet down during encore track "Corsicana," the Great American crowd registered at a steady 8.7 out of 10 on the "funeral procession level quiet" scale. Almost nobody said a word by the opening chords of "Wake."

Consummate Professional Award: Tim Mislock, who managed to change a guitar string in less than a minute in between "Bear" and "Hounds."

Reviewer's Bias: This was the best non-Coachella set I've seen in 2011. I decided not to bother with false criticism and just give a healthy fanboy glow -- the performance deserved it.

Setlist:

Parentheses

Kettering

No Widows

I Don't Want Love

French Exit

Rolled Together

Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out

Bear

Hounds

Putting the Dog to Sleep

Encore:

Two

Corsicana

Wake

----

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Travis Bill

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