What strikes me whenever I see Deerhunter live is the sheer unlikelihood of it all. The music of Bradford Cox and his ragtag bunch is sharp, dynamic and inventive yet on stage they still manage to look like a group of slackers who might serve you at a drive through. Tonight Bradford decided to open with a joke:

“Hello Melbourne. Today we learnt about John Batman, he settled Melbourne. In America we have Batman, he settles criminals.”

After pausing for some polite laughter the band launch into ‘Desire Lines’ of latest LP Halcyon Digest, the throbbing guitar intro prompting some early hand clap enthusiasts.

Cox has often spoke of the duality if his musical creation. It’s a balancing act most musicians encounter, wanting to explore new experimental sounds, while still keeping the fans entertained. With the success and sustained radio play of Halcyon Digest this conflict has never been more relevant.

Tonight the band managed a good middle-ground indespersing their recorded hits with sustained periods of improvisation. Their hypnotic rhythms and creative use of looped vocal effects forging soundscapes that most fans seemed to lap up with eagerness.

The setlist was comprised predominately of songs off the latest album with short punchy hits ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Revival’ receiving some of the night’s biggest ovations.

Halcyon Digest’s complex sounds were constructed artfully on stage and were delivered even more impressively without the use of any backing track. On the soaring ‘Helicopter’ Cox’s looped vocal moans were overlayed to create an eerie sonic backdrop.

There were tracks to reward older fans as well with ‘Never Stops’ and ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ particularly winning the respect of one punter who gave his best impression of a jubilant seal.

The set concluded in a dreamy vain with ‘Earthquake’, ‘He Would Have Laughed’ and a remarkable jam session closing out the list.

For the encore the band offered up ‘Agoraphobia’ off the Microcastles album, the vocals sitting amongst Cox’s silky best. After a short discussion between Cox and bassist Joshua Fauver the band called up from the crowd a long time fan named Oliver.

Apparently their ‘first’ Australian supporter, the lucky lad was given the honour of standing side of stage as they closed with a song of his choice. The selection was ‘Strange Lights’ off 2007s Cryptograms, a track that still ranks amongst their best.

In true Deerhunter style they brought proceedings to a close with a collaborative rock out, members swapping instruments and sweat as they bled every last sound from the equipment.

The night was another reminder why Deerhunter are simply one of the best touring bands out there at the moment.  They are damn good at making thought-provoking, catchy music and replicating it live – and if they did work at a drive through, I’m sure they’d be damn good at it as well.

– Dan Pejic