It was with a light heart and a bright sun in the sky that I made my way to Corona Theatre for the show of a lifetime. Montreal was treated with an ear-smashing show by Death From Above 1979, a Canadian band from Toronto which has easily become one of the top acts out there. Their mixture of hard rock and modern pop makes for an amazing experience, especially with the heaviness dialled to eleven. Opening for them; Montreal’s very own Murray A. Lightburn, who is also a member of The Dears. Murray seemed like the odd choice to open for such a heavy band, yet as I told my friend while watching him play, “It’s the calm before the storm.” With only two artists on the bill for the night, I started to wonder if the show would satisfy such a large crowd. My fears were quickly dispelled as Murray A. Lightburn took the stage.
Murray A. Lightburn walked onto the stage on his own, guitar in hand. Dressed in a fine suit and dimly lit by the stage lights, there was an air of mystery about him, but it might have been the shades he was wearing. His incredible voice was the first thing I noted about his performance. Although his songs were sad and moody, his voice always soared. There was emotion in his performance as he recalled personal stories or feelings through the medium of his music. He played songs from his band The Dears like “Death or Life We Want You” and “Missiles,” giving them an original twist which the crowd enjoyed; from where I was standing, I could hear a few people singing along to his lyrics. His guitar playing switched from fingerpicking to using a pick, but there wasn’t much excitement to his playing. Instead, his appeal came from the overall presentation of his act. The way he was dressed, his guitar, his voice, and the songs, all together, made for a beautiful show. Though I wouldn’t want to categorize his music, there was a lot of influence coming in from different genres. While some songs were extremely folky with his rhythmic strumming, others had a powerful soul feel to them, like “I’m Not Broken.” All in all, Murray A. Lightburn put on a great show. Though I could already hear many people questioning the choice of the opening act, I found the drastic difference in the atmosphere set by both bands to be interesting. It was, as I had said, “the calm before the storm.”
Not too long after Murray’s departure from the stage, Death From Above 1979 took the lead. The cheers started as soon as Jesse Keeler (Bass and Keyboard) and Sebastien Grainger (Drums and vocals) took the stage. The duo erupted into “Dead Womb,” a rapid song whose sole purpose was to destroy all the eardrums in the room. As was expected, Jesse Keeler’s transparent bass was a weapon of mass destruction. At his feet where an army of pedals just waiting to be clicked into action. The most amazing thing about their performance was how much their songs sounded like their studio versions. With a two-piece, you often wonder if some studio magic was used to make two musicians playing together sound like a four-manned band. But if their show proved anything, is that Death From Above 1979 doesn’t fake anything on their studio albums. If it sounds the way it does, then it’s because they can replicate it on stage.
To the joy of the audience, they picked songs from all of their albums. I recognized songs like “Nomad” and “Outrage!” from their latest record Outrage! Is Now, “Physical World” and “Trainwreck” from The Physical World, and “Turn it Out” from You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. Between the amazing songs and soul-crushing music, my biggest complaint would be the vocals. Every Death From Above fan knows that Sebastien Grainger has some of the most unique vocals in any modern band. Unfortunately, it was often hard to make out what he was saying, mostly because of how loud they were playing. Knowing the songs made it easier to follow, but those who were unfamiliar with the lyrics must have had a hard time following along.
If ever I had felt lazy about going out that day, by the time the music started, I was the happiest man in the world. When the moshpit began at around song number three during Death From Above’s set, it didn’t stop until the show was done. It was the sort of pit which came to you, no matter how much you tried to run from it. Having also forgotten my earplugs, I left Corona Theatre with a new backache and ringing ears. No regrets.
Written by Johnathan Robinson
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Chris Aitkens