Photos by Philip Cosores
A patio in the middle of Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard giving away free Patron tequila and popsicles in the early evening is the type of place you’d expect to see some trendy new DJ spinning some trendy house music for people to chill out to – you wouldn’t expect a loud, brash, avant-garde band like Liars to be bringing their ruckus to this kind of locale. However, anybody who’s seen Liars play can tell you that, as entrancing as their music can be on record, it is doubly so live, and the first people to fall under its power are the band themselves. They’ll create their own world and get lost in it, no matter what their surroundings are, and it’s up to the spectators to decide whether they want to take the trip.
Opening proceedings were High Places, the duo of Rob Barber and Mary Pearson who have recently relocated to Los Angeles and are preparing to release their third proper album. Playing as the sun set, their strange and atmospheric dance-ish music was a nice match for the atmosphere. Pearson’s ethereal vocals fluttered between the various layers of melodies being created by her keyboard and Barber’s guitar. On some songs Barber would switch to his drum pad, creating various intricate and interesting rhythms people could be seen moving their feet intuitively to the rhythms. On the more relaxed songs people were happy to stand and nod their heads politely as the graceful songs drifted around on the breeze. There was nothing spectacular about High Places’ performance, and even the visuals that they’d brought were hard to make out in the half-light, but this understatedness suited their sound and the atmosphere. Those new to the duo’s music are unlikely to rush out and buy their music based on this performance, but I’m sure that any time the band’s name crosses their path their ears will prick up and some investigating will be done.
Liars took no time to make themselves welcome as they took to the stage and burst straight into “The Overachievers,” one of their most outrightly rocking songs, which warmed the crowd up instantly, especially at the repeated chants of “L! A! L! A!” – even if the song may not be the most complimentary towards the city. Singer Angus Andrew was instantly in the zone, drawling maniacally into the microphone and screaming wildly off to the side at any moment of pause in the vocals.
This explosion out of the gate was immediately followed up with the band showing a different side of their sound, going into “A Visit From Drum,” which showed the band’s slower, drifting side. Andrew’s falsetto may not be that strong live, but the way in which he devotes himself to the song is entirely admirable and even inspiring. Throughout the performance he seemed to have a symbiotic relationship with his machinery at hand, using it to take his vocals to frequencies and sounds unattainable with the natural human voice.
The rest of the set was heavy with songs from Liars last album, Sisterworld, which is approaching two years since its release, but still sounds vital, as did the material from their older albums that they played, going back all the way to 2004’s They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. Highlights included the bewitching opening duo of Sisterworld, “Scissor” and “No Barrier Fun” – which really come into their own in the lives setting – as well as the opener from their self-titled album, “Plaster Casts Of Everything.” Keeping the volume up and eschewing the more focus-intensive songs like “It Fit When I Was A Kid” was smart; the free alcohol had attracted stragglers who were just there to talk and drink, and for the most part they drowned them out, but they somewhat befouled their slow jam “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” – not that the band showed any signs of discontent or that they even realised anyone was present.
Despite the fact that it was a free show, and despite the fact that many of the crowd had dispersed by the end, Liars played an encore, which was greatly appreciated by those fans still in attendance. Seemingly aware that it was true fans remaining, they dug into their back catalogue, finishing with “Burning Witch,” the oldest, and weirdest, song of the night. They’ve played sporadically in 2011, but this final twist in the tale cemented the fact that Liars are more than due a fully-fledged return; a band’s dedication to their fans, to their music and to their performances is something that will always be welcomed, and the idiosyncratic way in which Liars pull it off is something the is not only welcomed, but needed.