Sympathetic Stupid

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mercury Rev (and The Finn Brothers)

Kinda a bizarre gig last night.

For a start, it was at Hamer Hall, the venue formerly known as the Melbourne Concert Hall. Great venue, seats apparently about 2600. Whether it's the greatest rock venue, I'm not sure. The Palace, standing only, holds about 2000 and has a sight more atmosphere. But the acoustics are great at Hamer Hall, as we saw during Mercury Rev's set.

So yeah, the first weird thing was that the 7:45 printed on the ticket actually means 7:45! Maybe that's standard for 'stadium' gigs, but I wasn't expecting it, so I missed the first couple of minutes of Secret For A Song. Which was a shame.

The second weird thing was of course that the Rev were support for the gig. Strange. Not sure what machinations went on behind the scenes to cause this, but I'm just glad I got to see them at all. (I left halfway through the perfectly serviceable Finn Brothers, and that's the last I'll say of that.)

The third weird thing was the show itself, I guess. Big screen, the five boys squashed onto the front of the stage with some pretty standard lighting going on. Having not seen them before, I wasn't quite prepared for the extent of the happy, hippy, new-age vibe which they exude from every pore. But I had been to the Buddhist Centre for a meditation class that day, so I guess I was slightly prepared.

As I said to Tom at the concert, it surprised me a bit that they the band seemed so accepting of Jonathan's histrionics (don't often get a chance to use that, check the meaning, yeah, 'exaggerated emotional behaviour calculated for effect', that works). I suppose it's testament to their stability as a band that they all share a bit of the same outlook on life.

But you'd never guess that the band started out as basically a punk outfit. From the almost completely humourless quotes and new-age imagery on the screen, to the sweet vocals, 'moth-light' guitars and assorted tingly percussion, they seem closer to an earnest yogi than a rock group.

And the music, especially the (universally panned) last album, reinforces that impression. On the disc, anyway. Fridmann's production is clean and nice and, especially on the later stuff, removes any trace of an edge from it. Some of that comes back in the concert, thankfully.

The big numbers were the highlights of the show. A great version of Vermilion, moving into Opus 40 was the overall highlight. The slow ones were as good as on the album, but didn't work for me in a concert, especially Black Forest (Lorelei), already my unfavourite song, and one that doesn't suit my mood right now. Unfortunately we didn't hear Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp, I'd have had it as an encore, but the couple of hundred Rev fans in the audience couldn't summon up enough noise to make that even a remote possibility. Anyway, do support bands ever play encores? So it was over after just about an hour.

I can't resist the temptation to put them head-to-head with the Flaming Lips' gig of last year, which was in a far more conducive setting, at the Palace. Tell you what, if you swapped the two over, this would be the better gig. The Lips disappointed me; in their place, I'm betting the Rev would have blown the roof off.


And in later news, Michael Dwyer at the Age liked the Rev.
So cop that, all you Triple-M listening Crowded House fans sitting there drinking your VB with blank faces.