by Ben Lozovsky
Death was alive and well Friday night (4/2), resurrecting its impassioned proto-punk for a rare reunion show at Europa in Brooklyn. It was another chapter tacked on to an agonizingly short but compelling story, one of a visionary group that never got a chance to diffuse its influence throughout the music world.
There are plenty of recipes for how to not succeed in the entertainment business, and during their brief career in the 1970's, Death seemed to embrace the ultimate one: an all-black rock trio spouting political dissent and charging aggressively behind a moribund handle, coining an ambitious art-first punk ethos in a volatile city like Detroit.
But for a band with little likelihood of flourishing, or even merely persisting, there was no shortage of bleeding deference Friday. Amid near-fanatical appeals from fans and crowd chants like "you still got it," the Hackney brothers continued to build on a legacy that took a major upswing with last year's Drag City reissue of their modest mid-70's output.
Bobby and Dannis (with guitarist Bobbie Duncan of reggae band Lambsbread, in which the two brothers also play) brought the pummeling earnestness of songs like "Politicians in My Eyes" and "Where Do We Go From Here???" out of obscurity. In a tribute to brother David, the band's original guitarist, leader, and main songwriter who passed away from cancer in 2000, Death performed with a spirit and dexterity that made those long lost cuts feel as urgent as they must have when they first emerged in a racially divided Motor City.
Keeping it in the family, Bobby's three sons performed as opener Rough Francis, a band that initially formed as a tribute to Death but now appealingly channels the original's group's ferocity in their own output.
As Death finished the show with a performance of never released song "Can You Give Me a Thrill," Bobby announced the band's intentions on putting out new material in the near future. Better late than never, Death lives on.
The Brooklyn show happened less than two weeks after the band's one show at SXSW which took place March 20th at the Mohawk. More pictures from Europa (where Sister Anne played first), below...