Liars doesn't disappoint at the Biltmore
At the Biltmore Cabaret on Monday, July 9
Something strange happened when Liars took the stage at the Biltmore Cabaret. For those who know the trio for its thunderous performances, it was a little surprising when it eased gently into the evening with the soft blooms of synth on “The Exact Colour of Doubt”, off its latest, more electro record, WIXIW. But as soon as the experimental indie-rockers started playing, they had their audience practically hypnotized by their trademark trancelike rhythms.
As Liars segued seamlessly from the opener to the equally chilled-out “Octagon”, the audience was enveloped in eerily calm anticipation of the guitar-blasted noise-rock to come. And just when some onlookers came perilously close to getting bored, vocalist Angus Andrew let out what sounded like a howl of frustrated energy and the band launched into primitive wailer “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” from 2006’s Drum’s Not Dead.
Joining Julian Gross on the skins for the song’s almost prehistoric, cymbal-smashing polyrhythms, infused with a didjeridulike drone, guitarist Aaron Hemphill pounded away like a man possessed. His Andy Warhol hair sticking up in all directions, he fixed his darkly circled eyes on Gross as if they were locked in some cosmic percussion battle.
Meanwhile, when Andrew wasn’t vigorously head-bobbing with his Jesus hair in his face, he was dancing like a six-year-old girl on her birthday, hopping with arms swinging like he was skipping rope or spastically flapping his hands as if gripped by a fangirlish frenzy. Either way, it was super-entertaining, especially coming from a man in a snazzy suit who bears a notable likeness to fellow Australian Nick Cave.
During the more electronic-based material off WIXIW, like the Radiohead-ish “Ill Valley Prodigies” and the warmly lush but melancholy soundscape of “No. 1 Against the Rush”, Andrew and Hemphill mostly kept to their posts, resembling mad-scientist maestros behind their synthesizers’ tangles of wires and blinking LED lights. The illusion was only slightly hindered by the Tupperware container that was being used to prop up one of Andrew’s keyboards.
In terms of crowd reaction, standouts of the night had to be WIXIW’s “Brats”, a near-techno shuffler that sticks in your head until you want to puke; Sisterworld’s “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant”, a demented punk jam that had Hemphill strangling feedback out of his axe; and “Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway”, a Birthday Party–esque melee with an evil riff from They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, Liars’ concept album about witch trials.
And then there was the encore: resounding proof of the audience’s preference for Liars at their loudest. During “Broken Witch”, in which Andrew chanted unnervingly like John Lydon in PiL, and the walloping garage-rocker “Plaster Casts of Everything”, the mosh pit went positively bonkers. One girl in the front row thrashed around while smacking the stage with her palms, evidently in the throes of sublime spiritual ecstasy—or maybe she was just on ecstasy.
In any case, Liars is not typically a band that disappoints live. Even with a few lulls in its set, its three members performed like highly evolved beasts, delivering a show that was as varied and multidimensional as it was true to their primeval rock ’n’ roll spirit.