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Kicking the evening off was the Portland, Oregon via New Zealand band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which features former members of The Mint Chicks and who garnered a decent amount of buzz last year when they released their debut self-titled record. UMO has a fun, catchy, and almost kraut-rock sound mixed with insanely catchy hooks, something that is evident on singles like “How Can U Luv Me?”. Despite the fact that they were the opener and that their set started just a little after 8pm, UMO still drew a decent sized crowd, all of whom seemed to be dancing and thoroughly enjoying their set. Frontman Ruban Nielson was charming as always and profusely thanked the crowd for their support. Highlights included “Thought Ballune”, “Jello And Juggernauts”, “Boy Witch”, and of course “How Can U Luv Me?”. The group also played an untitled new song, so here’s to hoping we see some new material from UMO in the near future!
Up next, Liars took the stage and were greeted by loud claps and cheers from the audience. The band was touring in support of their sixth album, the recently released WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”). Currently based in Los Angeles, Liars is made up of Angus Andrew on vocals and guitar, Aaron Hemphill on guitar and synths, and Julian Gross on drums. The three looked extremely dapper in their matching black and white suits. They kicked things off with the opening two tracks of WIXIW, “The Exact Colour Of Doubt” and “Octagon”. The new record is a bit more electronic and ambient (and very much in the vein of Radiohead’s Kid A) than the abrasive noise-rock that Liars had become known for, and the tracks from the new album translated very well live. This is partly a testament to just how talented the band is and partly due to how good the new songs are. Despite the fact that the venue was only about half full (typical of a show on a Tuesday night with an early start time), the crowd seemed totally into Liars’ music and were constantly head banging and dancing along.
As much as I adore the WIXIW tracks, things really got bumping when Liars busted out “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” off of their last record, 2010′s Sisterworld. The track is super loud, grating, noisy, and essentially has all the elements of the best Liars’ songs. With it’s chanting verse of “cuz he bothered you”, the song turned into an awesome highlight of the evening. The band continued that momentum by following the track with one of my favorite songs from the new record, “Brats” – one of the more noisier songs on WIXIW.
Andrew, Hemhill, and Gross are three immensely talented musicians, and they certainly showed that last night. I always forget the fact that Liars put out their first record over ten years ago, and all those years of experience have turned Liars into one of the tightest live bands I have seen in awhile. I also felt like Liars was able to facilitate a certain kinship between the audience and the band that does not always happen at shows. Despite the fact that they were all strangers, I felt a strong connection to the rest of the audience because we were all there for same reason-to rock out with Liars. It sounds kind of corny and is a feeling that is hard to articulate, but I feel confident that music lovers and frequent concert goers know the feeling that I’m talking about. Other highlights from their performance included the title track from WIXIW, “No. 1 Against The Rush”, “Who Is The Hunter”, and the super vintage Liars track, “Pillars Were Hollow And Filled With Candy So We Tore Them Down” (a track off of their 2002 EP Fins To Make Us More Fish-Like).
Overall, I cannot say enough excellent things about Liars’ live show. Even if you are unfamiliar with the band but have any interest in noise/art/experimental rock, I highly suggest seeing them live if you get the chance. WIXIW is out now on Mute Records.