Deerhunter has always been known for creating beautiful, emotionally charged music — as if they know something about the universe that we don’t. Tuesday night’s show to a packed house at Trees proved they could balance that emotional intensity with a side of humor.
The night began with a set of music featuring old blues songs soaked in an electric haze, bleeding into slow-building instrumentals even before the curtain came up to show singer Bradford Cox fiddling with the floor pedals and manipulating his vocals in the show’s opening minutes.
As the band joined in, there was a controlled chaos emanating from the keyboards, set against the backdrop of a minimalist guitar for the show opener, “Cryptograms.”
Cox, dressed in a faded Hawaiian shirt tucked into too-large-for-his-size khakis with a brown belt and buckle, would later tell the audience that Spoon’s Britt Daniel was at their show in Austin and razzed the singer about his appearance. But appearance means nothing with music this satisfying.
Cheers went up for “Death in Midsummer” from the band’s new album, as Cox cast aside his tambourine and picked up a guitar to accent his screeching howl in the final words of the song’s line. Cox would hold onto the guitar for a rocking performance of “No One’s Sleeping,” before picking up a bass for “What Happens to People?”
After a stormy interlude of electric sounds, manipulated by Cox with his back to the audience, the band played a stripped-down version of “Helicopter.” In this song, Cox took over the vocal duties alone, giving him the opportunity to lurk around the stage and pick something up to put in his pocket and make guitarist Lockett Pundt break his otherwise stoic presence and smile.
This led into one of the night’s biggest crowd-movers, “Revival,” followed by “Futurism,” and the fan favorite “Don’t Cry,” after which Cox seemed to loosen up for his audience. He'd barely uttered a handful of words up to this point.
Cox joked that “In the post-Leaving Neverland era, that song doesn’t feel the same,” referencing the line “Come on little boy, I’m your friend.”
“What was I thinking,” Cox continued. “I think I was talking about myself.” Cox would go on to vamp awhile, keeping the audience laughing and concluding that he could really go for a watercress sandwich.
Cox turned the vocal duties over to Pundt for a transcendent performance of “Desire Lines,” in which the audience harmonized for a chorus filled with “whoas.”
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Taking back the frontman position, Cox performed “Take Care” with all the showmanship of a twisted R&B crooner, at times talk-singing and at others, just talking. At this point, Cox opened up to the audience completely, telling the Britt Daniel story, removing the Goodwill tag from his shirt, revealing that what he had picked up from the stage was the knob to an unknown guitar, and admitting that he had kind of forgotten the words to “Plains.”
After performances of crowd-pleasers “Disappearing” and “Coronado,” Cox — in an act of pure improvisation —brought on opening act Tim Koh for what was supposed to be the final song, “Nocturn.”'
While relating that he was having a “kooky kind of night,” Cox skipped the pageantry that usually goes with an encore performance and just moved right into the night’s actual final song — a pitch-perfect cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets.”
With the perfect final song for the evening, “Here Come the Warm Jets” showed that the band knew where they came from, appreciated where they were and had a greater sense of where they are yet to go.