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The Boxer Rebellion Rock ACL Crowd

As frontman Nathan Nicholson told the early crowd at Austin City Limits’ AMD Stage Sunday morning, London-based indie rockers the Boxer Rebellion hadn’t played a live show in about six months.

But there were no signs of rust for the tight quartet, as the international band ran through several of their hits from a three-album catalog.

What makes the Boxer Rebellion so interesting live is their versatility.  Nicholson switches back and forth from acoustic to electric to the piano, and his Thom Yorke-meets-Morrissey voice flies in a haunting higher register.

Guitarist Todd Howe is restrained when he needs to be, but isn’t afraid to let loose, while drummer Piers Hewitt and bassist Adam Harrison are impeccably in-synch.

And while one might not be able to place Boxer Rebellion with the songs they heard on stage, there is something familiar to the music, as the band has contributed several to television shows and movies.

“Spitting Fire,” “If You Run” and “Evacuate” were all in the Drew Barrymore/Justin Long romantic comedy Going the Distance, with “If You Run” written specifically for the movie.

Each of those got a turn at ACL.

The acoustically-led track “Soviets” – which appeared in ABC’s Huge – was another highlight of the Boxer Rebellion’s performance.

The Boxer Rebellion even brought out a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.”  As eerie as that song is, the Boxer Rebellion’s version – featuring a subtle bass drum and shaker as the only percussion – took it to another level.

A closer of “The Gospel of Goro Adachi” left a lasting impression, with all guitars devolving into a fuzzy fade out while a staccato drum beat pierced the wall of noise to set up an abrupt end to the song.

Midway through the set, Nicholson confirmed that the band is working on a new album.

Consider that record firmly planted on the list of highly-anticipate releases in the coming year.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Dahdah.

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