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LIVE REVIEW: Tusks, Ideal Bar, 18.02.2020

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Tusks live at Ideal Bar Copenhagen

It’s an evening of firsts for Tusks. It’s the band’s first gig of the tour. It’s frontwoman Emily Underhill’s first time in Denmark. It’s their guitarist’s first ever show with the band. And for most people in the crowd it will be their first gig of the year, starting off mellow and broody.

Though usually presented as Underhill’s solo project, Tusks are on stage at Ideal Bar as a fully-formed outfit. The difference this presents between the album recordings is immediate. Though there is plenty of guitar on Tusks’ albums, they are much more prominent here — which is before you account for synth track “Bleach” being reinterpreted for guitar in this set. 

There is a bedroom recording quality to Tusks’ output, but that feeling is absent here. Despite a laptop, a synth, a tablet set on an amp, and a whole mess of pedals, there is nothing swampy about the music. This is in large part because the vocals and drums are prominent rather than buried under reverb. There are still some chill out moments, as when they play “Mind,” and people are dancing in their own contorted ways.

That prominent, individual feeling of each instrument reshapes some songs in significant ways. Penultimate songs “Salt” has lost the softness of its recording and is instead strongly rhythmic. The synth lines are clearer, there is an extra floor tom, and the tune on the whole is more energetic and exciting.

It’s not an isolated moment; “Last” is only the second song in the setlist, but the band attack it with an energy usually reserved by performers for their final piece. Underhill pulls a similar trick for “Avalanche” when, after a quiet introduction, she counts her band in with a mischievous smile for a thunderous outro. It underlines the difference between Underhill the producer and Underhill who fronts a rock band. The version of Tusks she brings to the stage is more approachable, more dynamic, but exudes the same coolness. 

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