Published Jun 25, 2018Former post-punk wunderkinds Iceage have grown increasingly ambitious in recent years, moving away from the buzzsaw riffs of their youth in favour of a more ornate, Americana-laced sound.
Nowhere is this more evident than on their recent album, Beyondless, their most fully realized to date.
On Sunday night, they played the majority of it, along with a few early career standouts, in the Nation's Capital. Although they were unable to deliver the same breadth of the new arrangements on stage, the Danish quartet (a quintet live, thanks to the addition of a much-welcomed fiddle player/keyboardist) showed Ottawa why they continue to be one of the most exciting rock bands working today.
First up was Mary Lattimore, the L.A.-based harpist touring behind her most recent album Hundreds of Days. Her 47-string Lyon & Healy harp was an odd sight amongst the Metallica pinball machine and sputtering smoke machines of The 27 Club, but Lattimore quickly mesmerized the audience with her bucolic, pitch-shifted plucks and looped melodies. It was a surprise she was able to: as Lattimore told the crowd halfway through her performance, she had just finished watching new horror classic Hereditary at a local theatre and couldn't get the film out of her head. Her music was haunting in a whole different way; it was hard to forget once she left the stage.
After a brief intermission, Iceage weaved their way through the crowd and onto the stage — as "Love to Love You Baby" pumped from the speakers — followed by ever-enigmatic frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, who gently pushed fans out of the way with the detached air of an amateur fighter.
Launching into "Hurrah," the singer's serpentine-like swagger and stare were on full display, as Rønnenfelt darted around the spotlight and into the Instagram feeds of many.
The frontman sang extra loud to make up for a lack of a partner on the Sky Ferreira-assisted "Pain Killer," before delivering the first real standout of the night with "Under the Sun." As the band members charged their way towards the bridge's crescendo, mirroring Rønnenfelt's lyrical call to "push it up, push it up, push it up," it was easy to see why many have compared the band to a young Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. But they're far from copycats, as evidenced from their dynamic delivery of "Plead the Fifth" and slow build into the distinctive cowpunk of "The Lord's Favorite," which garnered them their first big sing-along of the night.
The band continued to hold their own during "Thieves Like Us," with guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth adding even more swampy flavour to the opening riff's original twang, before leading into a blistering rendition of the same album's "The Day the Music Dies."
After a brief backtrack into You're Nothing's "Morals," it was a return to Beyondless for "Take It All," a late-album standout that matched the same melancholy air live, but lacked the oomph of the recorded version, even with the added strings.
Following a surfeit of the band's more atmospheric new material, the group surprised the audience with classic tracks "White Rune" and "Coalition" to the delight of longtime fans looking to dance, finally returning to their new album once things had reached a fever pitch for the cacophonous title track and tempo-shifting "Catch It."
With his suit jacket on the ground and yesterday's shirt looking even sweatier than before, Rønnenfelt and crew left the stage through the crowd. As is common with Iceage, no encore would be offered up in exchange for the evening's consistently rapturous applause. But this is a band whose actions on stage speak louder (and clearer) than the words uttered, and their message on Sunday night was similarly straightforward: Iceage are here to stay.