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Death from Above 1979 at The Phoenix

By: Michael Del Vecchio

“We’re Death from Above, from… here,” said Sebastian, casually mentioning their Toronto roots.

The Heads Up! is Now tour was a celebration of DFA’s first album, Heads Up, migrating to Ancient Fashion Records. DFA’s history covers four albums of phenomenal, thrashing, feedback-lathered loud rock music. Heads Up made an impression on listeners with its intensity and thrashing riffs, mixing elements from noise, dance, rock, thrash and punk.

Stacks of amplifiers roared bass notes across the hall as Jesse moved around stage. Sebastian positioned himself over the drum kit like a dance-rock vampire hunches over his next victim.

With music and riffing, the band and crowd fought off silence during the entire show. Energy in the crowd was consistent from Dead Womb to their final encore, Pull Out. Jesse’s use of feedback was great, and both men engaged the crowd between songs. DFA always delivers a full sound despite having half the members of the traditional rock band setup.

Despite the hall’s size, the music’s reverberations cannibalized itself some points. During some parts, especially during the thrashier, most punk-blooded tunes on Heads Up, some of the passages were almost indecipherable in the mix.

They played the version of Do It! they ended concerts with during their first iteration - with the extended ending after Jesse thumps away on bass, while singing and squeezing notes out of a KORG.

The last notes of If We Don’t Make It, We’ll Fake It rang out to cheers and applause. DFA transitioned into the second half of the show with Outrage! Is Now. A drum machine played the opening beat, letting Sebastian stand at the front of the stage to sang to the crowd more intimately. He returned to the kit halfway through, ending the song in full force.

DFA played favourites from the following three albums, including Freeze Me, Romantic Rights and White is Red. The music was loud, heavy and abrasive, but also melodic at times with their later releases. The guys remained casual and off-the-cuff. Sebastian engaged the crowd between songs, bringing up the Raptors and the Warriors. He compared Stephen Curry chomping on his mouthguard to a teenager swirling keys to show off after buying their first car. Sebastian mimed tucking drumsticks into his pants and asked how amateur he would look walking down the street like that. He said he would spare further comments because his mother was in the crowd. People fired up a “Let’s go, Raptors” chant.

Sebastian got the crowd huffing and puffing to recreate the heavy breathing featured on the album version of Trainwreck 1979. After the set initially ended, the band was summoned back to the stage by the longstanding tradition of the crowd chanting “DFA! DFA! DFA!” The guys came back on stage to play an encore of two* (full) songs: a snippet of All Star and Little Girl, before ending the show with Pull Out.

DFA delivered on their promise. They played every note from Heads Up, at least from what I could make out standing in the venue. The songs hit just as hard as they did seventeen years ago, lathered in the experience and skill DFA developed over almost two decades.

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