Review Deerhunter Live @ Le National Montreal

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Review of Deerhunter Live @ Le National February 22, 2019


The last time I visited Le National…I never made it inside.  I was waiting in line with my good friend Kevin, to catch John Lydon (PIL) perform.  Puzzled why so many French speaking people were in the line, I was impressed that this British band made such a big impression on the local community.  Turns out…we were in the wrong line-up…it was for Belle & Bum.  La Tulipe (both share a website) was where I was supposed to go.  Tonight…I got it right.

It was my first jaunt into Le National and it felt as if you took the comfortable wool sweater that is the Corona theatre, and you tumble dried it.  Looks and feels the same, but smaller.

The room was packed when I entered and found my way quite close to the front.  

The bottleneck, for a concert at Le National, seems to be the bar, which is just in front of the entrance.  There was more traffic there then the Turcot interchange.  I didn’t spend any time in that lineup, I could just tell because the boyfriends would leave to get drinks for their ladies…chivalry is not dead…and would return much much later than anticipated.  

For the couple next to me…after his eternal absence, he gave his girlfriend her Stella Artois and her debit card back…hummm…chivalry is dead.

Mary Lattimore

Mary Lattimore was center stage with her harp & sampler.  She was accompanied by a guitarist.  

I believe that anyone who takes the time to learn an instrument and has the guts to go onstage is a hero.  

Mary has performed with the who’s who of indie music:  Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile and Steve Gunn.

In terms of my personal tastes, my favorite Harp comes in a pint glass.  

I wasn’t feeling this at all.  Full disclosure, I came tonight with only a limited knowledge of Deerhunter, listening to the latest release “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?” a few times in the car and a memory of Halcyon Digest’s cover art.

Maybe if I was getting a deep tissue massage, then I’d be OK with the harp…but that’s just me.  What matters more is how the room felt.  

Watching someone play the harp is quite mesmerizing.  It wasn’t just the graceful plucking of the strings…it was the fact that she would constantly adjust the sound with her lap sampler.  How someone can do both is beyond me, skill for sure.

The room was receptive and encouraging.  They clapped and a few woo-woos were heard.  

What I learnt from this evening is that Deerhunter fans are sonic pioneers.  They are open to a wide range of sound experiences, as I would soon find out.

Mary’s performance elevated the evening to a classy affair.  Had I been wearing a tux and sipping on a Martini…I would felt better…but I left my Bond outfit at home.


I wasn’t sure what to expect from Deerhunter.  I renewed my hunting license just in case…I don’t have one…just jesting of course.  

I read the Wiki which spoke of lineup changes, death by skateboard, and the dangerous act of walking the dog around traffic.  What I was left with was a picture of Bradford Cox as a man that wasn’t going to quiet his inner musical genius.

Bradford Cox

Bradford took the stage resembling Joey Ramone but with a better haircut and eyesight. Leather was replaced with a flowing silk top that drooped over his tall body.  The result was that with one look, an invisible neon light flashed:  Artist.

When “Cryptograms” off the album of the same name (2007) started, I was puzzled and wondered if I was at the wrong venue again.  This was like a Sonic Youth show, where they broke the Spinal Tap barrier and found a way to turn it up to 12!

I’m listening to the song on iTunes as I type and notice a heart next to it.  I have encountered this song in my history and found it worthy of the coveted heart.

That’s when I started to understand the Deerhunter fans and their adventurous streak. Now Mary Lattimore made sense.  

From the first song to “Death in Midsummer”, it seems like an entirely different band. On iTunes, and grey vinyl purchased at the show, they sound more like The Decemberists than Sonic Youth.  

I quickly packed some balled up paper napkin into my left ear to save what’s left of my hearing.  The perils of being in front, next to a speaker.

Bradford Cox Deerhunter

At one point, Bradford told us: “It seems as if you cringe when we do a chord change. Is it too loud?  It’s supposed to be!  It’s supposed to shake the snow off your boots.”  

They played more songs (5) from Halcyon Digest than the new album (4), like “Helicopter” and ending the set with “Coronado”/”He Would Have Laughed” that clocked in at 15 minutes.

Deerhunter mixing it up

Bradford also broke the band/fan barrier when he jumped down and sang among us.

They returned for the encore with “Agoraphobia” and “Monomania” before calling it a night.

After getting a copy of the setlist, I made my way to the merch table, trying not to step around all the shattered ear drums on the floor…an impossible task.  I picked up the vinyl to add to my collection and returned to the winter night.

I wasn’t sure how to process this evening, and as my ears continued to ring, I could appreciate musical adventure I had tonight.

At times, as intense as the Russian Roulette scene in the movie of the same name. It was a show that my ear drum will never let me forget.

Review, iPhone Pictures: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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