So, I saw LIARS at the Paradise Tuesday night, being turned on to them by their new record, WIXIW, and Annie Zaleski’s piece in the Phoenix last week. Their set was great, but the show sucked. The blame, I guess, lies with the general air of apathy that surrounded the club throughout the night. It’s hard to play (or enjoy) any show when it’s under half capacity, but I can only imagine that this could have been a lot better.
To begin, I’ve got to say that this might have been one of the most unenthusiastic audiences that I’ve ever attended a show with. It didn’t feel like a Paradise show, honestly; it felt more like we were sitting in some sort of anonymous coffeehouse in Greenwich Village and listening to a folk singer croon about Khe Sanh. The arms-folded, bespectacled hipsters were out in full force, probably talking about how they saw either band at T.T.’s a few years back and just how much better they were there. It got to be especially obvious how much they sucked when Angus Andrew dropped a lyric and the track so the audience could call back with the verse, and the silence was deafening. Seriously, the only dude who looked like he was having any fun (aside from the guys in Liars) was one random-ass punk kid who seemed like he was in a circle-pit with the voices in his head. Step it up, guys. You paid good money to see this, and at the very least you can act like you’re happy to be there.
Speaking of unenthusiastic people, the members of opener Unknown Mortal Orchestra seemed like they weren’t really happy to be there. I wish their singer, who looks like John Belushi if he was a militant anarchist who also shops at American Apparel, would do a cover of “Zippedy-Doo-Da,” because his voice is high enough and their melodies slow enough to do it justice (get on that, Disney). Their set primarily consisted of mid-album filler music and noodlin’ on the guitar, until the last two songs (especially the vaguely surf rock “Boy Witch”) brought some of the energy back to the stage. It’s a shame when the last two songs of any set are pretty amazing -- they convince you that you’ve seen a pretty good act just on the virtue of those rockin’ numbers when the rest of the set felt dead. A few people trickled out after they finished their set, and I was surprised. These spoil-sports are the rare kind of people who would go see the Beach Boys reunion tour for John Stamos.
Liars, on the other hand, brought a smart, powerful energy to the stage. It was pretty fascinating to see electronic tracks from WIXIW be constructed right in front of my eyes, and it really showed the development and depth of the electronic landscapes they’ve created on the new record. It was a swell fusion between what they’ve done in the past and their new reality, with the heavier sort of punky noise rock that they’ve released in the past forcing the audience to pay attention to the newer developments in their sound. Aside from that, it seemed like everyone was actually having a good time, something I didn’t quite expect upon walking into the club. They were much more energetic in performance than the new record suggested they would be, but chalk that up to Andrew just generally being an intimidating fucking man.
Not only does he look like the Hound from Game of Thrones, but Andrew also knows when to howl and when to speak. He gently acknowledged his band’s prior shows at T.T.’s and the ‘Dise, and also vaguely cracked a joke about Harvard before throwing the group into an incredible version of “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” off of their 2006 LP Drum’s Not Dead, which got a few people jumping and tapping here and there. I guess the muted environment would have been fitting for a more “experimental” group that took themselves a little more seriously than Liars did. The sad part is that these kids didn’t know when to cut the bullshit out and just let themselves have a bit of fun. It’s one of the few times that an attempt at reverence has just come off as disrespectful, especially when their experimental rock gods seem to know how to have a better time than they do.