If there were any stragglers in the crowd on Saturday night- there probably weren’t, as the show was sold out in advance- you’d have to forgive them for not expecting much when The Antlers first came out to the Independent’s packed house. Unassuming (understatement) and dressed entirely in black, the trio- consisting of Peter Silberman, Micheal Lerner and Darby Cicci- slowly made way to their respective instruments. All of the venue’s lights were off when, Silberman, the band’s singer and the material’s genesis, mumbled a short introduction into the mic, probably something along the lines of “Hi, we’re the Antlers from Brooklyn, New York.” Suffice to say, there was no mistaking the indie-rockers for KISS. And seeing that for the rest of the night you had absolutely no doubt of their talent or their dedication,and that’s the best compliment I can possibly give. All performance, no talk…just the way it’s supposed to be done.
After listening repeatedly to the Antler’s newest album- Hospice, which was remastered and reissued in August of last year- I started to think that there was no possible way to improve on the material. They’d figured out every inch of the epic album and there wasn’t a way to expound on anything. I was wrong, completely. Every song, whether slow in tempo (like “Shiva”) or relatively quick (such as “Kettering”), was improved upon in live form. “Bear” and “Two,” two of the album’s more single-y songs, were completely stripped down, leaving Silberman’s voice alone to carry the melodies, a decision that played out far better than expected. Another pleasant surprise was the band’s decision to play their newest record out of order (though it wasn’t totally unexpected). Obviously, a front-to-back album play is not to be expected from an indie band, but the release of Hospice as an epic story puts the Antlers in a different category. However, instead of playing the album all the way through, the band highlighted each song as a stand-alone, leaving time between each for the “ahhh that was great” factor and for the anticipation of what might come next.
One of the reasons that the Antlers’ material has garnered such adoration is its use of both upbeat, thumping moments (most evident in “Sylvia”) and moments almost completely devoid of anything save Silberman’s voice, in a balancing act of sorts. Live, these moments are truly magnified…with hair-raising results. The crash of the cymbals behind the fully opened jaw of Silberman during the apex of “Sylvia” does the song more justice than a studio recording ever could. The crawl of “Epilogue” had the same effect, to say the least. In those moments, whether inherently loud or quiet, this live act peaked. (Though it’s worth noting that the middle ground between the two sonic extremes is treated with the same amount of care; if it weren’t the live act wouldn’t be half as good). Isolated on their instrumental islands, the trio comes together with precision that might make the members of Interpol jealous. Seriously. And, if pockets full of Hospice songs weren’t enough to satisfy the Saturday night crowd, their cover of The XX’s “VCR” as the first song of their encore most definitely did the trick (I might be in the minority here but I truly think that their cover, which is given a touch of “Wake” is much better than the original). And after closing with “Epilogue”, in nearly the exact same manor with which they appeared from backstage an hour and a half before, the darkly clad band walked off if they’d never played a note.