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Battles And Commander

By Michelle Meywes Kopeny in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 11, 2011 3:40PM

2011_10_10_Battles AtibaJefferson.jpg
Photo by Atiba Jefferson
Battles stopped by the Vic in the middle of their US tour on Friday, this time as a three-piece. It’s hard to ignore the gorilla in the room, or lack thereof, as singer and effective frontman, Tyondai Braxton left the band last year to pursue solo projects. But once the trio got started, that gorilla didn’t seem so big anymore.

One thing Tyondai absence does is shift the “frontman” focus onto drummer John Stainer. Sure he was always front and center with that sky high crash cymbal, but now he takes an even more commanding and rightful lead (in fact, he was even introduced as “master and commander”). It also offers them more flexibility in using different guest vocalists for their new album, Gloss Drop, and as Stainer said in our interview with him last week, allows them to experiment with those recorded vocals, turning them into yet another instrument for the “math rock” group.

On stage, the band was backed by two tall video screens that illuminated a strong and intense set with color blocks and images. On songs like “My Machine,” “Ice Cream” and “Sweetie & Shag” they took those screens to new levels with video of vocalist's faces (Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo and Kazu Makino, respectively) matching the live audio manipulation. Obviously the crowd got fired up for easily recognizable fan favorites like “Atlas” and “Ice Cream,” but attention never waned. The only weak point of the set was during the encore, a confusing song said to be for Madonna, but as soon as Stainer rejoined the group, things were right back on course. Add in some stage banter and an invitation to join the guys at Rainbo after the show, and you had a complete, at ease group that wasn’t missing a thing.