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Live: Deerhunter - KOKO, London


Deerhunter are the musician’s musicians of contemporary alternative rock. Since they first came to prominence in the mid-2000s – and with the exception of a few infamous criticisms – you would struggle to find peers who would not sing their praises. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s frontwoman Karen O once likened Deerhunter’s live shows to a ‘religious experience’. With every release they have gained a legion of new devotees and similarly a wave of new and established bands taking lead from their direction.

Since the announcement of a new line up, a bombardment of recording sessions on social media and a limited run cassette only EP, the anticipation of a new full length has been inevitable. When the band announce live dates on this side of the Atlantic a familiar sense of anticipation usually starts to build. However, these three UK dates seemed to slip somewhat purposely under the radar. Very much a warm-up show Deerhunter performed a set of new material and fan favourites with a no bells and whistles intimacy at the renowned London venue.  

The band opened with a new track, one of several played throughout the set with the often outspoken but amicably genius bandleader Bradford Cox taking to the stage in the sweltering hot venue cloaked in a full-length yellow raincoat, performing the full track with pitch-shifted vocals. The band then launched into ‘Cover Me (Slowly)’ and ‘Agoraphobia’ from Microcastles, a record that was drawn on the most with the former song being jammed out for several minutes.

The second new track of the evening was introduced as ‘Futurism’, a song with a more straightforward feel than those from 2015’s Fading Frontier, with a hooky guitar melody counterparted with Cox’s trademark soft vocals echoing “call it what you need too”. Lockett Pundt then took vocal duties for another of the night’s crowd pleasers ‘Desire Lines’ from Halcyon Digest, but it was the almost unbearably beautiful ‘Helicopter’ that saw the biggest reaction of the night, introduced with a heartfelt dedication to the late Jay Reatard.

Cox and co took to the stage at a comment raising 8.15pm due to the venues strict curfew, an issue that arose later with an extended version of ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ being cut short, although admittedly not the best choice of words after it had already been taking place for almost quarter of an hour. The track was meant to be the penultimate with Cox explaining “we had this whole bit where we go into Snakeskin but we don’t want to upset the venue,” actually sounding genuinely sincere.

The show was certainly not for those expecting a polished piece, the band indulged in improvisation and extended songs and at times there was also a sense of relearning old parts and an obvious testing of the water with new tracks. But for those wanting to see these modern day icons in a smaller venue debuting new music as well as a selection of back catalogue favourites, while allowing themselves the freedom to express without the constricts of a strict setlist this was definitely not one to miss.