Even Deerhunteristas prone to love everything that comes from Bradford Cox and his band (and given the prolific output of Cox, his side-project Atlas Sound and guitarist Lockett Pundt and his side project, Lotus Plaza, that’s a lot) seemed at a loss during sizable chunks of the group’s Sept. 9 show at the Fine Line in Minneapolis.
After a punky, almost Tragic Mulatto-ish opening set by Marnie Stern, Cox hit the stage in a Cramps T-shirt and a moppy black wig that looked like it might have been sported by Liz Taylor at the bitter end of a lost weekend.
The concert’s beginning, like parts of its middle and end, featured not songs from Deerhunter’s hot 2013 “Monomania” CD, not songs from the critical-darling “Halcyon Digest” (2010) and “Microcastle” (2008) CDs, but rather percussive tape loops and pain-inducing squalls of pulsating feedback.
In a decision that can’t have been made with the audience in mind, maybe 30 minutes of the 2-hour stage time was devoted to feedback. During these intervals, fans mostly stood stock still, unsure whether to head for the exits, stab themselves in the ear or remain in place for the moment when a chord or rim shot signalled an actual song.
Cox didn’t disappoint those who like their indie-rock demiurges to keep the show in showbiz. No thrift-store dresses for him on this hot night, but he did some crotch grabbing, shook a pair of maracas during the song “T.H.M.,” rolled around on the floor a good deal, drooled copiously, balanced his spindly 6’4” frame atop the bass drum, ripped his wig off, and jumped into the crowd to chase a rambunctious fan who grabbed his wig at another moment.
Deerhunter did reveal its sensitive-side artistry in the guitar-drums-songwriting departments. Cox was at his plaintive, vulnerable best on such older songs as “Agoraphobia” (“come for me, cover me, comfort me….”), where the tender lyric is washed and rinsed by three guitars, and the chug-ahead and tuneful “Nothing Ever Happened.”
Of the songs from “Monomania,” Deerhunter and Cox lit the fuse most convincingly on the title track and on “T.H.M,” with its sparkling arpeggio opening for lead guitar.
The “down South boogie” section of the evening had its moments, sounding like Allman Brothers on both speed and acid, but went on too long. Same goes for the ultra-repetitive final number, when I alternated between feeling sorry for myself and pitying the excellent drummer, Moses Archuleta, who appeared bound for the RSI clinic.