Defenders of live music support a good cause. Music is a cultural and social process that only exists very briefly during a single event, and its cultural importance in its live settings is unavoidable. However, a lot of contemporary popular music is performed and produced in the studio, and its composition is inseparably paired with recording technology. Music technology creates amazing textures, effects and spaces that could never exist in real life, allowing for fantastic and impossible music. Technophobes that believe 'real music' is only played by acoustic instruments are ignoring the wealth of opportunity that technology affords (often forgetting the technologically mediated means of music reproduction that have become so inherent). A fantastic performance should be able to use and reproduce studio effects in a live setting, using the event and the composition to create the social process of music.
Darwin Deez, during this performance, did not cross this barrier. His recorded albums are full of energy and vigour, and he has a strong reputation for the party atmosphere he creates in his gigs. Deez's two breakthrough hits in 2010, 'Radar Detector' and 'Constellations', have impressively-crafted hooks that are sure to get the audience excited and singing, and the songs from his new album, Double Down, are in a similar vein. The band are all very skilled musicians, especially Darwin himself who performed a solo with the guitar held behind his head, and this is reflected in the subtle richness of textures, and the tightness of the band. Every few songs the band put down their instruments and perform a choreographed dance, surreal in its awkwardness. They do it just for fun, which is a great way to get the crowd excited and a hilarious quirk. They all have a fantastic time, dancing with each other and having lots of fun. It's a joy to see musicians loving their craft, and it usually proves infectious to the audience.
But during this gig, part of Deez's current tour, it just didn't click. A lot of the charm of Deez's music is generated from intensive production and extreme attention to detail. In 'Radar Detector', the intricate layering and tiny effects create delight and a rich, interesting texture, built onto a very simple harmonic background. Deez's voice is well-suited to singing fairly quietly, allowing for more versatile and even technique. Live, however, the balance forced Deez to sing louder in a more strained fashion, and the messy mid-levels obliterated any sense of detail. With such dire balance issues, the simplicity that allows a wealth of embellishments became entirely mundane. Without the strength and clarity of Deez's capricious melody lines the music fell flat; it's not that the music is inherently boring, but that it does not perform well live.
Most of the audience were hardcore Deez fans and clearly had a good time, but they were somewhat subdued. The general vibe didn't really work, which is a real shame. The summary is: listen to the new album, but choose the gig carefully.