DEUS with EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS at Lee's Palace, March 26. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 125. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Oh dear, sweet Belgium - how good that country's been to us over the years, what with all the delicious beer and fancy chocolate they send us. And now look. This time around we're not getting some great new Trappist-brewed ale. This time we lucky Canadians have been sent a great band. Thanks to the return of Deusand their rockin' live show, I'm no longer sure I can say my favourite things about that country are the truffles and bonbons.
Too bad more people didn't have some idea how rad these guys are, cuz then Lee's wouldn't have been embarrassingly empty. But, hey, maybe everyone else just didn't want to miss The Family Guy.
Whatever the reason for the sparse turnout, openers Eastern Conference Champions didn't seem to notice as they rumbled through a set of upbeat, cranked-up garage rock that kind of sounded like Trail of Dead meets the Strokes in some sweaty basement, even parts melody and jitteriness. Attendance must have been a little thin everywhere for these guys, since singer Josh Ostrander confided halfway through their set that they really needed to sell some CDs tonight.
Thankfully, Antwerp's Deus didn't look so road-worn by the time they hit the stage. They have every reason to feel refreshed, since they've basically been on indefinite hiatus for the last seven or so years. But all that time away didn't seem to hinder the boys, who slowly but assuredly played through a good chunk of their latest, Pocket Revolution, along with generous doses of earlier material.
Mainstay singer Tom Barman led the show with a deceptively laid-back demeanour, sounding like a sleepy Lou Reed before periodically spazzing out on his guitar. This project looks like it's clearly his baby. He easily communicated his infectious intensity to the crowd pressed against the stage, quietly expressing his gratitude by saying, "We have hardly ever played this side of the world, so thank you for coming."
That appreciation also came through loud and clear in the performance, a hodgepodge of smooth garage and boisterous arena rock fused with the artiness and insanity of Captain Beefheart. Deus sweated through the energetic and anthemic Sun Ra one minute, then kicked out the dark, brooding stomp of What We Talk About (When We Talk About Love). All the while, violinist and keyboardist Klaas Janzoons threw in some remarkably atmospheric elements and percussion, and lead guitarist and bassist Mauro Pawlowski and Alan Gevaert just looked like they were having a genuinely fun time.
It was a total shame that the bands didn't play for a bigger crowd.