The Antlers @ Saint Luke's, Glasgow, 21 Apr
The Antlers celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hospice with an emotion-fuelled performance and a touching tribute to Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison
Hospice is an album that struck with immediate emotive force when it appeared ten years ago, and has since only continued to bask in its own mythology, luring in new fans with its stark imagery, bleak storytelling and inscrutable metaphors. Peter Silberman hasn't given much away over the years and the decision to revisit the album in this new acoustic context allows the music to remain as transfixing as ever, but with new emphasis placed on the power of the lyrics and Silberman's ghostly falsetto. Stripped down to its essentials, this performance shows that Hospice is at its most powerful in small, quiet moments.
The first hour of the show is taken up with a complete, faithful rendition of the album, with just Silberman on acoustic guitar, Michael Lerner with a single drum, played lightly with either mallets or brushes, and Tim Mislock (also the support act) providing occasional electric accompaniment. Things obviously get emotional quickly with Prologue and Kettering, but Sylvia is the first real show of what the new set-up can achieve, as Silberman's voice is shunted front and centre, bereft of its usual whirling arrangements.
Bear, Two and Wake are particular highlights, reaching astonishing heights of heart-rending – and heartbreaking – emotional resonance as the album's characters unravel towards their physical and mental demise. Silberman is fairly quiet throughout this first set, but pauses to dedicate album-closer Epilogue to the memory of Scott Hutchison – a touching tribute that serves to exacerbate the sniffling and tears that make up the only audience interruptions of the night.
The band return for some tongue-in-cheek "golden oldies" (all the songs played are more recent than Hospice) by way of an encore. Emotions are still running high, but the selection of fan favourites is a much-needed equaliser after the first set. Surrender allows for a peek into the band's usual dream-rock style, while Corsicana provides a lesson in restraint and control that really drives home Silberman's talent as a vocalist.
Putting the Dog to Sleep ends the night on a typically melancholic note, though the final refrain: 'Put your trust in me / I'm not gonna die alone / I don't think so', has just enough hope in it to keep the emotionally battered audience joyous through the final standing ovation.