To the outsider, it might seem odd that a set of strident, socially aware songs would inspire a crowd to beckon for more.
Based on the albums and promotional photos, one would assume that Algiers frontman Franklin James Fisher is a serious man at all times. But onstage at Baby’s All Right on a rainy Brooklyn Saturday night, Fisher cut a relaxed, near-jovial tone. He laughed off a malfunctioning Wurlitzer keyboard as best he could, and a smile crept across his face when an audience member began chanting revolutionary slogans in between songs. In those moments of brief silence, Fisher and the rest of Algiers seemed laidback, but only for those interludes. Once the sputtering samples and thunderous rhythms kicked in again, Algiers transformed into a lightning bolt of politically-charged passion, making for an absolutely thrilling live show.
Preceding Algiers were electro-rock duo Eaters along with Moon Diagrams, the solo project of Deerhunter drummer Moses Archuleta. The former relies on looping Krautrock rhythms and a mesh of organic and electronic instruments to create something austere and chilling, yet one couldn’t shake the inevitable comparisons to sounds of the past. While hearing a revived take on early electronic music was enjoyable, Eaters simply didn’t offer much beyond strict revisitation of an established sound. In contrast, Moon Diagrams performed a set very much rooted in the present day. The incessant swirling loops and samples created a dreamy feeling that permeated the room, one that was only occasionally interrupted when drum machines or spurts of noise stuttered to life. Still, Archuleta’s sounds were more affirming than abrasive, leaning more on restructured, recontextualized pop than straight noise. It was a soothing, dreamlike experience, the perfect palate cleanser for what was to come.
Algiers’ live show typically matches or exceeds their records in terms of intensity, and that was most certainly the case in Brooklyn. The band started loud and strong, and they never let up over the course of an hour. Kicking things off with “Cleveland”—their latest single which decries the ongoing, unjust violence perpetrated by police against black civilians—the band continued ripping through most of the finest tracks off their powerful new record, The Underside of Power. Onstage, Fisher is a force to be reckoned with, constantly moving as he seems to lose himself in the music. All the while, his voice never wavers or dissipates, remaining as impactful as ever. The rest of the band were far from stoic, with bassist Ryan Mahan drawing attention with his impassioned performances on bass and backing vocals. Still, it was very much a band performance, one reliant on everyone playing at their best, which they most definitely did on the new album’s title track and the 2015 standout “And When You Fall.”
By the time Algiers was done, the crowd simply couldn’t have enough. The performance was a whirlwind of noise, passion and attitude, and Baby’s All Right wanted more. To the outsider, it might seem odd that a set of strident, socially aware songs would inspire a crowd to beckon for more. But these are troubled times that we live in, and Algiers’ music speaks to the present and future in a way that little else does.