Thursday 26 April 2018

On Stage: Protomartyr @ Melkweg

Some bands are able to record great albums, other bands are great at playing live. And then there are some bands who bring out incredible music and manage to make them even better when playing them live. More and more people are discovering Detroit rock band Protomartyr falls into that last category. Protomartyr at Melkweg Amsterdam, April 23 2018

This is clear from the fact that since the last time I saw them the people coming out to see them has doubled, maybe even tripled. They released another very good album Relatives in Descent that ended on many year lists including mine. The sometimes slightly absurd lyrics that singer Joe Casey brings in a vicious way, combined with the somewhat uneasy music, results in a thrilling listening experience. On stage the band is able to deepen their sound even more.

Take a song like 'A Private Understanding' with its rolling drum grooves, the simple but effective guitar chords and the biting vocals of Casey. Live everything becomes even more effective. The gloomy uneasy feeling of the music until it explodes into its aggressive chorus. You just have to feel this live, watch the remarkable posture of Casey, who looks like a traveling salesman of tooth brushes, leaning on his mic stand, carelessly holding a can of beer. He keeps repeating "She's just trying to reach you" and the song just keeps getting better and better.

Just like the band keeps growing over the years, it also does tonight. They suck everyone into their twisted dark universe where every song hits bulls eye. It's guitar player Greg Ahee's birthday so he gets to play a solo. But these guys are rock anti-heroes so there's no minutes long guitar shredding solo but a short awkward guitar melody. This is what makes Protomartyr so good, the no nonsense approach and attitude together with a keen eye for writing songs like 'Why Does It Shake?' that opens the encore. Songs that get under your skin and start to itch. You wonder how big their fanbase can grow if they keep going like this.

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