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By their own admission, Divine Fits are not a supergroup. However, last night at their Boston debut at the Royale, they definitely looked and sounded like one. Formed by Britt Daniel, the leader of indie giants Spoon, Dan Boeckner, of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, and Sam Brown, of New Bomb Turks, the band even have the pedigree of a supergroup. However, the decision to shy away from that title is both smart and accurate.
Last night, Divine Fits played with the energy and vigor of a youthful band and the technical prowess and stage presence of well-practiced professionals. They powered through their short and concise set, playing nearly every single song from their debut album A Thing Called Divine Fits. The album itself is a perfect amalgamation of the trio’s strengths: Daniel’s sense of minimalism and melody, Boeckner’s synth backing and sense of melancholy and immediacy, and Brown’s powerhouse drumming.
Live, their strengths are even more apparent, with each of them playing a vital and unique role in their live show. Accompanied by Alex Fischel on various keyboards and Korg synths, Divine Fits played a tight, hour long set. While Daniel stayed on the bass for most of the set, Boeckner led the path with his electrifying guitar leads on their salvo of opening tracks: “The Salton Sea”, “Hitchin’ A Ride”, and “Baby Got Worse”. Each track seemed to up the ante a little bit; these songs have a real sense of danger and dread. Ironically, as minimal as the songs may be, they feel very claustrophobic. There is sense that Divine Fits are intent on keeping up the traditions of Krautrock as their tunes twist and wind towards their endings, but never run off course. They find a chord or note they like and stick to it, with every strum sounding more and more forbidding.
However, continuing on this course would lead to certain doom. So, while the songs never let up the melancholy, there is a palpable sense of excitement on stage. Daniel and Boeckner frequently switched between guitars and singing duties, Brown hammered on the drums, and Fischel added a new-wave sheen to most of the songs with his synths. You can tell that these guys love being on stage with each other; there is a sense of purpose in this quartet that you don’t see in most bands. At times, it felt like we were simply watching four friends jam on some tunes in a basement or garage somewhere in Nowheresville, USA. This is music for the sake of music and a performance for both the audience and the band.
Two of the most surprising moments of the set were covers of Frank Ocean’s “Lost” and The Wipers’ “Doom Town”. No stranger to covering songs (Daniel’s other band, Spoon, have a back catalogue of covers that would rival most band’s discographies), Divine Fits added their own, unique touch to each song. For Ocean’s “Lost”, they took it out of the realm of modern-R&B and put their own, sweeter, spin on it. It was one of the few moments of calm and rest in an otherwise head-on set. “Doom Town”, on the other hand, was exactly that — head-on, containing all the filthy energy of the original. Lyrically, the song fits in perfectly with the dark nature of Divine Fits’ music. “People they stare, nobody cares, living in a doom town,” yelped Daniel as the rest of the band thundered away.
Of course, the singles sounded massive. “My Love Is Real” saw Boeckner flailing on the ground like a mad man while “Would That Not Be Nice” featured Daniel’s punchy-guitar tone (a big shout-out to the white, Vox AC30s that both Daniel and Boeckner were rocking on stage; a classic sound). And, as the band slowed down to play “Civilian Stripes”, the emotional weight of the lyrics seemed almost too much to bear: “You’re trying it on/But you know that you’ll never get it right/So is it good?/The quiet life/Early in the night/You went walking in your new civilian stripes.”
And, with that, they were off for a break, leaving the crowd to demand more. So when they sauntered back on stage, with Boeckner raising a bottle to the crowd, they decided to end it all with the most melancholy song in their catalogue: a cover of Rowland Howard’s “Shivers”. Beginning with the line “I’ve been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn’t suit my style” doesn’t really scream crowd-pleasing, but Divine Fits turn these sad moments into glorious defeat. There is a fire in Divine Fits’ songs and the Royale ate up every moment as the quartet gave us everything they had and then some.