Sometimes, simplicity is key. New York City's Battles has been taking this approach for years, and their Dec. 2 set at the Hawthorne Theatre proved they're still pretty damn good at it. Something has changed, though—Battles is now a duo instead of a foursome.
Performance-wise, the smaller lineup worked in their favor. Guitarist and keyboardist Ian Williams and percussionist John Stanier had ample space to command the stage—particularly Stanier, whose cymbal was damn near as high as the ceiling. The room was packed with weirdos and normies alike, all in awe of the energy coming from the stage. Williams and Stanier played with a fervor that was mirrored by bright, flashing blue and white lights.
Vocals weren't needed. Quirky, mathy synth nodes beeped and bopped their way through the venue, and the booming bass caused the walls to vibrate. The duo played tracks from throughout their discography, and even songs from their October release, Juice B Crypts, drew big reactions. It was no surprise, though, that old-school hits "Ice Cream" and "Atlas" received the most cheers.
It was hard not to be entirely enamored—Battles gave a hypnotizing performance. They ended with newer track "Ambulance," delivered with particularly heavy math vibes. There was no encore, but no one seemed to mind. Battles is not the kind of band to overdo it.