Pete Silberman’s band of not-so-merry men prove to be a sensational live act
With their dense, intricate arrangements and subject matter that often touches upon—though detractors might say @bear hugs tightly and refuses to let go of, ever”—the bleak and despondent, The Antlers are not a band you’d initially peg as translating effectively from the record to the live arena. Their intense, ethereal brand of dream pop is practically purpose-made for weeping along to in your bedroom, not chanting along to with your pissed-up mate in one hand and an overpriced Red Stripe in the other. Witnessing these songs live is a different kind of gig experience; the stillest crowd you’ve ever seen, all entranced and mesmerized by the heart-wrenching sounds making their way from the stage. And on that level, Pete Silberman’s band of not-so-merry men prove to be a sensational live act.
Opening with the trio of ‘Palace’, ‘Doppelganger’ and ‘Hotel’, the band maintained a serious, detached and almost businesslike demeanour throughout, save for multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci’s Jason mask as a nod to Halloween. The set relied heavily on their latest two records Familiars and Burst Apart, with their breakthrough Hospice almost completely ignored apart from an early airing of ‘Kettering’ and an encore ‘Epilogue’. As a concept album about a dying loved one, its contents is perhaps too harrowing to be played in anything more than short bursts. The band’s signature multi-layered yet minimalist soundscapes were recreated note perfectly by an army of synthesizers and guitar effects pedals, and Silberman’s ghostly, expressive falsetto—still the band’s most prized asset—was used to devastating effect on tracks such as ‘No Widows’ and the anthemic ‘I Don’t Want Love’, the latter of which proved to be one of the high points of the evening.
Live favourite ‘Putting the Dog to Sleep’ closed the main set in typical morbid form, with Silberman yearning “prove to me/I’m not gonna die alone,” over a skipping, dirge-like beat, followed an encore of ‘Refuge’ and ‘Epilogue’ that saw them engage in some sparse guitar and trumpet interplay for the finale. The band swiftly left the stage suddenly and without fanfare, leaving an emotionally fragile crowd to pick up the pieces of their psyche. Though they’ve often been overshadowed by other acts in the Brooklyn indie scene such as The National, The Antlers are a band that deserve their recent newfound exposure, and seeing them perform is an experience quite unlike anything Manchester has been gifted with before.