Battles Live @ Brighton Music Hall, Boston MA [12-11-19]

Battles Live @ Brighton Music Hall, Boston MA [12-11-19]

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Well, thank God for Jimmy Fallon. I know, strange way to start a live show review, huh? But, it’s related. Hear me out. Back in the day when late night television was worth watching (your John Stewarts, your David Lettermans), there was a little show called Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It had decent comedy, good guests, and great music. The Roots were the house band, after all. But, they also had some pretty amazing musical guests. The Pixies played on the show (RIP Kim Shattuck), as did Jawbox and Earl Sweatshirt. That alone is enough to tell you that the music booker on that show knew what they were doing. But, I also saw Battles for the first time on that show. I was immediately hooked: both by the music and their presence. I could not get the song Futura out of my head. That led me to their great album Gloss Drop which was one of my favorite albums of that year. I kept my eye on the band, but never really connected with the music as much as I did on Gloss Drop. I thought maybe they were a one-album-band for me, until Juice B Crypts came along.

I’ve always wanted to see Battles live and could only imagine what kind of stage presence they would have, building the songs live. Would it sound as seamless? Was everything prerecorded and assembled, or synthesized live? Now they’ve lost a band member and are just a duo. How would this affect their music? All of this was running through my head as Battles set up at Brighton Music Hall last night. The presence of drummer John Stanier’s drumset made me realize that some serious business was about to go on. And keyboardist/guitarist Ian William’s intricate synthesizer ensemble meant this duo was not kidding around.

From the moment Battles took the stage, it was an hour of sheer transfixion and near-mayhem. There is so much going on, that I’m glad the current form of the band is a duo, as I kept switching focus from Willaims to Stanier, both of whom seemed in a trance, completely engulfed by the music. There was so much going on and so much noise being made, I was completely baffled. Of course being a drummer I was locked in on Stanier as he completely dominated the drumset and laid down the rhythm as loudly and seamlessly as he could. Not that he was a robot either as I could notice him very occasionally lose the beat. So it’s probably more accurate to say that Stanier is an absolute beast. You wouldn’t think Battles was responsible for some of the most complex rock music these days because of how easy they made it all look, but it’s a no-brainer that they make the catchiest songs around. Playing mostly off their new album, Battles is a band that gave the audience exactly what they wanted and left everyone in awe of how they did it.

I am a Battles fan reborn, and you can bet next time they come around, I will be there, front row, getting my face blown off.

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