A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Mercury Rev at Shepherd's Bush Empire

My busy schedule, alongside 10 days in New York has seen me neglect my blog of late. So much so that I am only now getting round to posting about going to see the magnificent Mercury Rev at Shepherds Bush Empire on 13th November. They were supported by Howling Bells.

I always find the prospect of going to see Mercury Rev play live very exciting. I think it is fair to say they are my favourite live band. The last time I saw them was almost 2 years ago, also at this venue. Their recent album 'Snowflake Midnight' had slowly grown on me after rather my lukewarm initial feelings. I had expected the new material to dominate the set list but in the end they opted for a more balanced, career-spanning (almost) set. We managed to secure front row seats in Level 1. It was the 8th time I was seeing them live, and the 4th time I was seeing them at Shepherds Bush.

They began by projecting images of iconic albums & key influences on the back of the stage, accompanied the playing of 'Lorelei' by The Cocteau Twins at loud volume (which, incidentally, is featured on the album 'Treasure' which was included on my post listing my top 30 albums). I had thought there was a chance they might abandon this routine but thankfully it looks like it is here to stay, which is brilliant news as it is such a cool way to introduce the band on stage.

As I had kind of suspected, they opened with 'Snowflake In A Hot World', which sounded fantastic and much stronger live than on record. They segued into the ambient guitar sounds of ‘October Sunshine’ before going straight into the beautiful 'Holes', the first of 5 songs from 'Deserter's Songs'. The sound was great – very loud, with the guitars (as usual) coming across as epic and beautiful as ever. 'The Funny Bird', possibly my favourite Mercury Rev song soon followed, dropping down the set from its usual opening position. We also got the magnificent ‘Frittering’ and a beautiful acoustic, slower ‘Tonite It Shows’ (accompanied, appropriately by sepia-tinted images of a dancing ballerina on the back of the stage). The shadows of the band were projected onto the backdrop throughout, which is another brilliantly simple way of making the performance look even better.

Jonathan was as captivating as ever – enigmatic, untouchable, enraptured, conducting the band throughout and seemingly synchronising the light show. Overall, a magnificent show which captured Mercury Rev at their magical, exquisite, psychedelic best. Probably the best show I have seen them play, and live personal highlight.

I think the set list went like this.........

Snowflake In A Hot World
October Sunshine
Black Forest
The Funny Bird
You’re My Queen
People Are So Unpredictable
Dream Of A Young Girl As A Flower
Tonite It Shows
Tides Of The Moon
Opus 40
Goddess On A Hi-Way
The Dark Is Rising
Senses On Fire

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