Whether by accident or design it is exactly two years to the day since Peter Silberman last appeared in Leeds. On that night in 2017 he played a solo show in front of only a handful of people just down the road from here in the Belgrave’s sister venue Headrow House. Tonight he is back in West Yorkshire with The Antlers, the band with whom he first made his name more than a decade ago ready to perform in front of a packed crowd, tickets having long since sold out for this the first of what are only four UK dates on this tour.
The tour – The Antlers’ first live outings in four years – is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band’s third full-length album, Hospice, and its recent deluxe edition reissue. At his last Leeds’ show Silberman played three songs from the record – ‘Thirteen’, ‘Bear’, and ‘Shiva’ – weaving them seamlessly and consecutively into the delicate fabric of a translucent, transcendental performance.
Tonight we get Hospice in its highly emotionally-charged entirety revisited here in pared-down, acoustic form by Silberman and The Antlers’ original drummer Michael Lerner (longtime multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci is no longer with the band) who are joined by the New York-based touring musician Tim Mislock on guitar.
Upon its release in March 2009, Hospice did not make for easy listening, dealing as it does with the disturbing truth of an abusive relationship and it’s anguished emotional fall-out. Hearing it again tonight, the passage of time has clearly not diminished any of those feelings.
Stripped of much of its wall-of-sound studio production, the narrative of Hospice becomes even more stark, even more profound. On ‘Sylvia’ Silberman’s piercing falsetto has never sounded so clear, nor so vulnerable. For all of its inherent distress, ‘Atrophy’ becomes almost euphoric. And with it’s resounding chorus of “we’re too old, we’re not old, old at all”, ‘Bear’ reminds us that when Peter Silberman penned this harrowing tale he was only in his very early twenties.
The beautifully textured atmospherics of Tim Mislock’s delicately chiming guitar and Michael Lerner’s soft martial drumming stitch ‘Two’ together, preventing it from collapsing under the weight of its huge emotional strain. By the time that the performance reaches ‘Wake’ we can all breath a collective sigh of relief, feeling blessed that we have managed to get that far such has been the intensity of the occasion.
This was never going to be some misty-eyed nostalgia trip down memory lane. Peter Silberman has said that his decision to return to Hospice ten years on was informed by a desire to see now how he had viewed the world back then; examine the interpretations he had placed upon his life events at that time. Experiencing the record again tonight it is difficult to imagine that there wasn’t also a strong need for Silberman to seek some sort of final deliverance from all those previous feelings of pain and anger and desperation.
This last thought gathers further momentum during the second half of tonight’s show – six songs drawn from The Antlers’ other albums plus ‘Ahimsa’ from Peter Silberman’s 2017 solo offering Impermanence – when the tension just drains away from Silberman’s face. He even allows himself the luxury of screwing up the intro to ‘Parade’. The three musicians all burst out laughing. It has been an evening of such mixed feelings, a time of high emotional drama and one that will linger long in the memory.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE