Dancing to the Drums

November 4th, 2011

The Drums – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 3, 2011

(Photo: Sam Ellis)

Anyone happening to wander into Music Hall of Williamsburg last night without a clue as to who was playing needed only to glance at the stage, to the large black-and-white backdrop boldly proclaiming: the Drums. Although still a relatively new band, with the recent addition of two members and the release of their sophomore LP, Portamento, the Drums, now a five-piece, have grown into a band worthy of their own stage set.

Singing over driving bass and guitar lines reminiscent of Joy Division on fast forward, frontman Jonny Pierce was a captivating presence, dancing, swaying and gracefully pacing about the stage with a deliberate, just-understated-enough-to be-cool swagger. As he sang through numbers like “What You Were,” “Best Friend,” “I Need the Fun in My Life,” and “Book of Revelation,” Pierce crooned, belted and showcased his powerful falsetto—recalling the style of the equally emotive Morrissey more than a few times.

Although the band slowed things down for the ’50s-inspired “Down by the Water,” for the most part, the show was a nonstop collection of concise, taut dance numbers, with the sweaty crowd spending the set earnestly attempting to emulate Pierce’s singular moves. But what really whipped the crowd into a frenzy was the Drums’ performance of their song “Money,” with the recession-appropriate lyrics, “I want to buy you something/ But I don’t have any money,” which judging by the response, seemed to tap into some sort of collective angst. It was an excellent synthesis of one of the band’s unique strengths: the ability to weave deadpan, downbeat and lovesick lyrics into something we just can’t help but dance to. —Alena Kastin