The Antlers is the strong mother of countless fables, nurturing and tender when health is at stake but brutally honest and forceful when emotions pile up. In a mere 75 minutes, Peter Silberman and company shook the crowd by the nape Monday night, offering a slower—though more muscular—take on their brilliant record, Hospice.
The record itself is a concept album following the pains and humility of having a terminally ill young friend. Silberman tells his story in a whisper, uttering profoundly powerful lines like “And walking in that room / When you had tubes in your arms / Those singing morphine alarms / Out of tune” before breaking down in a crashing storm of resonating guitar and delicate, imploring vocals. Listening to it alone feels like consoling a close friend and Silberman's dire honesty keeps you listening to every word.
Live, Silberman showed a vocal ability that far surpassed even that of the recording studio. His range was impressive and always a bit nasally, the pinched sound of someone who has growing accustomed to melancholy. He shook in rhythm on stage, often backing away from a microphone that could barely keep up with his lingering lyrics.
And while Hospice is very personal, the record lets you in with a number of atmospheric entry points. As a three-piece live act, The Antlers is all the more welcoming. The combination of keys, percussion and lyrical testimony is like therapy and the coldness of the record gives way to fuzzier gusts of ethereal rock. With slower, more percussive takes on “Sylvia” and “Two,” the mood was not simply that of an intimate tell-all, but more of a shared lesson. And it's shared by band and audience alike, both reaching for recovery after heavy, heart-brushing blasts of melodies so liquidly they're medicinal.
During tracks like “Bear,” my candidate for song of the year thus far, The Antlers expressed veteran creativity. It took four measures for the audience to acknowledge the song, stripped of the acoustic guitar folkiness of the record version and replaced by a more haunting, ambient backdrop. Every song was reconstructed in some new way, without straying from the act's trademark silky static. A resounding cover of The xx's “Videotape” locked the night up.
The Antlers is, undoubtedly, a new force in music. Only a few years old, the group has already breathed new life into the concept album while solidifying the significance of provocative songwriting married to a provocative sound.