The Rainbow Warehouse has an extraordinary, degenerative disposition. A gargantuan pitch-black space, divided by temporary walls yet flowered with a diminutive stage and a wonderful sound system. Beyond a novelty, it’s peppered with idiosyncrasies that couldn’t have suited Liars better. The earthy bass-textures played by support act, The Haxan Cloak were welcomed by a wistful, expectant audience however; the sticky hands of time couldn’t have clawed toward the New Yorkers’ beginning any slower.
9:40pm hit, two suited figures clasped either side of the stage and WIXIW opener, ‘The Exact Colour Of Doubt’ began. Swirls of deep-synthesisers swallowed everybody’s stomachs; whilst lead singer Angus Andrew staggered from side stage with his fists clasped, intensely gesturing toward the ground like a frustrated toddler. “I wonder/I wonder where you go” – the show opens defiantly here, flowing seamlessly into ‘Octagon’. Soon enough, Julian Gross leaves the microphone and synthesisers, and sits at the drum-kit: a more traditional instrumental set-up is embraced by Liars from then on. There’s a projector showing what seems to be their practice room being constantly re-arranged by Angus, Aaron, and Julian. It’s tongue-in-cheek, charming and peculiar.
‘Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack’ is an early highlight. Defined by intense instrumentation, falsetto melodies and rhythmical texture, each member is adding to the ever-evolving landscape and it’s just so interesting to listen to. Liars were part of my musical edification – their incessant obsession with re-definition of themselves is on show right here, yet a real aggression and intent allies tracks from 2006’s ‘Drums Not Dead’ to the deepest depths of their back catalogue. This would’ve never become apparent to me had I not seen them that night.
Greetings are exchanged after half an hour of stage time, with Andrew speaking clearly about how it’s “always great to be in Birmingham” – the streets of Digbeth need to be hailed more often. There’s a wonderful symmetry between the themes on WIXIW and burdening feelings of callous dread: had the show not been performed so organically, it wouldn’t have transferred. Title track ‘WIXIW’ sets the crowd alight, whilst ‘Flood To Flood’ passionately tells us to “refuse to be a person” or “refuse to wake up set in”. Sombre moments like the circumspect ‘Who Is The Hunter?’ are juxtaposed with erratic splashes of cymbals and vocal spikes, or the fluctuating guitar melodies of ‘Scarecrows On A Killer Slant’. They constantly usurp themselves, exchanging and displacing instruments - entrancing all ears as our pulse rates rise.
The set reaches its summit with Andrew perching on the edge of the stage surreally enforcing his dialogue by pointing at himself and individuals, squelching “I, I am the girl/She, she is the girl/He, he is the bear/We, we, we want to be him”, ending the song by screaming “I wanna be a horse” ritualistically. Everybody is shuddering, virtually clasping one another’s shoulders.
Stimulated by the indulging-midland crowd, the overwhelming heat in the cold warehouse is poignant; everybody is happy to be here. ‘Plaster Casts Of Anything’ spearheads an encore which is embraced by a continuing level of intensity, the curtains call and Liars take their bow.
As I stand weighing up the prices of merchandise: I realise that it could be New York 2000, ATP 2006, or Birmingham 2012: Liars are absolute, ever-evolving, and timeless – defined by an utmost genuine commitment to embracing every moment, they’ve made me and everybody at the show a privileged, rare breed.