By Will Deitz
On January 24, 2008 came some terrible news. “Liars’ Angus Andrew Throws His Back Out On Eve Of Tour.” The hyper-energetic front man of the globe-trotting noise-rock outfit, Liars, had spent an afternoon face-down on the floor, writing in pain after bending over to pick up a pillow. Ageing’s a bitch, but Andrew summoned up the strength to say that the show would go on, and that he would be aided onstage by… a chair.
Indeed, much of the crowd at the Metro on Tuesday night was nonplussed as Andrew made his way onto a foggy stage and sat down, with a few even shouting “Get up!” Having been treated to two decently entertaining warm-up duos in Alecs and the Drummer and the noise-punk No Age, there was a question of whether the energy in the room had already peaked for the evening. However, all fears were quickly assuaged, and drummer Julian Gross and guitarist Aaron Hemphill disappeared into the background as Angus Andrew, clad in a tan suit and sneakers, put on an otherworldly performance – think David Byrne in Stop Making Sense, only shrink the suit, eliminate the meticulous choreography, replace the lamp with a chair, and add a lot of pain.
[Above: Dean Spunt of No Age]
Liars scattered a good portion of their latest, self-titled release throughout the set, with varying degrees of success. Andrews vocals on “Houseclouds”, complete with catchy mid-nineties synth riffs, actually sounded out of sync with drummer Gross for about half the song, but the balls-out rock of “Plaster Casts of Everything” threatened to fracture the floor below the frenetically hypnotized crowd. Far beyond the music, however, the focal point of the show was Andrew himself, his chair going, for the most part, unused. Screaming and shouting, dancing and flailing, moving across the stage like a rag doll on strings in what could have only been some extreme musculoskeletal agony, Andrew kept the audience transfixed for 70 minutes. It was a hell of a show.
The strangest part of the night, however, was the genial, downright fatherly tone lead singer Andrew took between songs. Extolling his love for Chicago, his love for No Age, and his love for his record label while seated in his beat-up office chair, it was hard to imagine that this was the same man who, just a minute earlier, had been shaking like a dog coming out of a swimming pool – until he got up and did it all over again the next song.