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Live Review: Deerhunter

Bradford Cox may be the most awkward frontman around – but he’s totally loved for it…

Guy Eppel/NME
Photo: Guy Eppel/NME
“Last time I was in Belfast, I met a man…” drawls gangling Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox, purring lasciviously and flicking his fringe from his razor-sharp cheekbones. “He told me about something called ‘the Celtic length’.” Cue a lewd assortment of hoots and caterwauls from the Belfast crowd. “He turned out to be a liar. But I didn’t mind. Oh no! I didn’t mind at all…”

Atlantan post-punkers Deerhunter may be best known for their angelic ambient punk, but tonight their stage banter is pure Carry On smut, with Bradford flailing his limbs and giggling in a quick, nervy drawl like an overgrown Michael Cera with a reverb pedal and the collected discography of My Bloody Valentine.

Luckily, the music isn’t half as crass – after an echo-drenched opening jam, the band segue neatly into the low-lit anthemics of ‘Desire Lines’ with its rumbling guitar and vague “woahs”. ‘Don’t Cry’ is lo-fi pop at its finest – Bradford’s yearning croon of “C’mon little boy, you don’t have to cry” set against a backdrop of wan, bone-rattling bass and pretty, slightly off-kilter xylophone. Hazed-up and faded-out is what Deerhunter do best, and ‘Helicopter’ is the undisputed set highlight, all ticking, spooling guitar cadences shot through a reverb prism, until dispersing languorously into a glassy, shivering mirage.

A man near the front tilts his head back, closes his eyes and raises his arms in silent, devout adoration, as though momentarily possessed by the spirit of a teenage stoner rather than the soul of a 45-year-old graphic designer with a beer gut and a crippling mortgage. And isn’t that what music is about? Making your life seem slightly less shit for a few, blissed-out moments?

As the last, sumptuous chords of ‘He Would Have Laughed’ wisp and curl and fade, and the rest of the band troop off before the inevitable encore, Bradford remains rooted on the stage. “I can’t be bothered going,” he mutters. “I’m just going to stand here for a while.” And what follows is the single most awkward moment NME has ever witnessed at a gig – Bradford standing, blinking at the crowd, occasionally waving stiffly, his face contorted into a ‘Please god, let this be over’ rictus. He may be a god with his foot on the guitar pedal, but with both trainers planted firmly on the ground, he’s just an average, painfully awkward guy. And we love him all the more for it.

Katherine Rodgers

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