It’s been a whirlwind journey for New York’s Nation of Language. Back in the height of the lost year that was 2020, the synthpop trio released their first album, Introduction, Presence; though it was an odd time for a debut LP, they gained a loyal crew of fans and kept their heads down. As the world began to reemerge in 2021, so too did the band with the stellar A Way Forward, which found the trio upgrading their infectious new wave tracks to widescreen heights and helped establish a much larger core audience. A Way Forward also propelled them to multiple major festival appearances and their biggest tour to date, giving them a valuable chance to hone their live chops.
Now, a few weeks after announcing their forthcoming third album, Strange Disciple (out September 15th on [PIAS]), Nation of Language are ramping up for their biggest year yet. Last night (May 4th), they played the second date of their extensive run of US tour dates (get tickets here!). Performing at one of their New York City hometown’s biggest venues, Brooklyn Steel, it was clear their return was more than welcome.
The show’s openers were fellow NYC outfit Gustaf, who set the tone for the evening with an incredibly compelling display of knotty post-punk, complete with crowd participation, ghosted vocal parts, spoken word poetry, and furious musicianship.
When Nation of Language took the stage, their excitement to be back in front of a hometown audience once again was evident. Both frontman Ian Devaney and his partner/collaborator Aidan Noell took multiple opportunities to express their gratitude — and, of course, banter with each other. (It was a delightful moment when Noell gave Devaney some encouragement after they busted out a brand new track). They dusted off some tracks from their debut and made sure A Way Forward’s highlights were well-represented; “The Grey Commute,” with Devaney’s soaring high notes, was an incredibly powerful number, and Introduction, Presence’s “September Again” kept the energy high.
But the most intriguing musical moments arrived with each new song from the upcoming Strange Disciple. Lead single “Sole Obsession,” with its syncopated drums and bubbling synths, became an anthem, and Devaney’s encore opener “Stumbling Still” was a breathtaking ballad. After coming off of only a few dozen shows last year, it’d be easy for Nation of Language to return with a bit of rust in the gears, but that was certainly not the case last night. Each entrancing track was perfectly executed, and now they’ve got us hungry for more.
Check out a photo gallery and the complete setlist below, and pick up tickets to Nation of Language’s ongoing US tour here. Check out what other tours are coming around this summer by scrolling through our extensive list of Essential Summer 2023 Tours, and then vote for your favorite hometown music venue as part of Hometowns of Consequence.