Brutus

support Shy Low
author LL date 15/05/19 venue Ideal Bar, Copenhagen, DEN

Tonight is a show I have looked forward to in some time, as the Belgian post-punk band Brutus has gathered more and more hype around themselves since I last saw them in their homeland around the time of their debut album release. Now they are touring on top of the release of their sophomore album "Nest". They have indeed visited Copenhagen before but this time, they seem to draw a bigger crowd as Vega’s Ideal Bar is brimming with expecting fans by the time they get on stage. This show is part of a month-long European trek for the band, with the US post-rock band Shy, Low joining them as support from this very day.

All photos by Peter Troest

Shy, Low

Tonight marks Shy, Low’s first time in Copenhagen, and frankly, not a lot of the audience members seem familiar with them. Still, a good amount of people have turned up to check them out in good faith, and they do not disappoint. Hailing from Virginia, US, their songs are clearly post-rock with sweeping, sentimental atmospheres and strong riffs that are both adventurous and melancholic to listen to. And yet, many of them have elements of different genres that make this set more varied than I expect at first. Their post-rock soundscapes develop into something very heavy a few times, almost intensely blackgaze-like at one point, while other moments invoke more of a punk-spirit, especially from the intricate and fast drumming. I am not too familiar with their songs yet, but I definitely make note of the super-tightly cut "Dissension" from their latest 2-song EP "Burning Day", and I am also fairly sure we get a beautiful rendition of the sweeping "Nostos" from the older recording "Hiraeth".

They are two guitarists and one bassist as well as a drummer, all trying to fit onto Ideal Bar’s small stage next to Brutus’ covered up drumkit, meaning that one guitarist decides to take up a permanent spot on the floor to the side of the stage. He also addresses us at the beginning and end of the show with no microphone, all in all setting a very intimate vibe that works really well here. Their other guitarist is in control of their lighting that includes a number of bulbs in different colors as well as some light bars in the back. This makes the visual side of their show very effective, as he can time every dramatic shift to exactly what is happening in the music. Altogether, their half-hour support set is a great appetizer for their music, although it seems parts of the audience lose focus a bit towards the more mellow ending.

Brutus

Shortly before they go on, Brutus is already setting the stage with some introductory soundscapes over the speakers, which is a nice touch that helps to quiet down the talkative audience tonight. The trio then appears to the sound of excited applause from the audience, and they break right into "Fire" from their latest record. They get a great crowd response for that as well as the following "Cemetery", which makes for a personal highlight of the set for me. The term ‘post-punk’ can certainly be applied to their mostly fast music but they have a very intense, lush and melodic sound compared to the more stripped back bands that genre usually makes me think of. They are punk while also being distinctly post-rock. Their songwriting has a very particular feel as well, simply because their enigmatic vocalist is also their drummer and everything has to balance out around that.

The most hugely impressive element, though, is how their vocalist manages to provide extremely consistent vocals, often with long forceful notes, while she's also sending an equal amount of energy into her vibrant drum playing. It's certainly a show of force and there's a great dynamic between vulnerability and strength in her performance, as she seems to be giving her all to perform as intensely as possible, constantly. The more stripped down "Space" particularly draws out this duality, giving her more room as she dons a tambourine and it provides another highlight in the set. To some extent, the ebb and flow of the songs seem structured to fit the vocals, so she doesn't have to go nuts on both fronts at the same time, but especially with their new songs, there's variation enough to find so that it doesn't get too similar or boring across the set.

The mathy guitar riffs especially flesh out the songs and more melodic inputs like the beautiful "War" or "Justice De Julia II", that gets a few solid singalongs, change up the setlist and make great impressions tonight. "Drive" and "All Along" from their debut album, "Burst", also remain solid additions to the set and get the crowd banging their heads insistingly to the high-strung vocals and signature riffs. The slower "Sugar Dragon" finally ends a set that clocks in at just below an hour which seems to be a perfect length for the band right now. It's just enough to hit the sweet spot of being satisfied while also already looking forward to the next time they come around these parts. I'm happy to see that the band has come a long way since their inception and they certainly provide a diverse set with a great flow as well, although the well-behaved crowd is almost too passive for the energy-exertions we witness in Ideal Bar tonight.

Setlist:

  • 1. Fire
  • 2. Cemetery
  • 3. Horde II
  • 4. Drive
  • 5. War
  • 6. Justice De Julia II
  • 7. Child
  • 8. Space
  • 9. Distance
  • 10. Techno
  • 11. All Along
  • 12. Sugar Dragon

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