I first happened upon this rather splendid outfit when they ably supported Bob Mould in Wolverhampton, barely a month after the release of their breakthrough recording ‘Deserter’s Songs’ many moons ago. By the end of that same year, thanks mainly to good old fashioned word of mouth, a bemused yet delighted band deservedly received the much feted ‘Album of the Year’ gong courtesy of NME, and thus their legend was born.
That seems a lifetime ago now as Mercury Rev, down to just the two original members, Jonathan Donahue and Sean ‘Grasshopper’ Mackowiak are hitting the road for the first time this decade on the back of recent release ‘The Light in You’, ending a 7 year hiatus. Naturally, their defining work still burns bright with fans here in the UK, evidenced by the merchandise stall doing a brisk trade in t-shirts emblazoned with the Deserter’s Songs album cover artwork on the front. Brudenell is also brimming with expectant punters, eager to see their heroes once more and in such an intimate setting. ‘Rev did play The Duchess of York a few times back in the 1990s but graduated to venues many times bigger as their stock grew.
Donahue and Grasshopper are joined on stage by Anthony Molina (Bass) Jesse Chandler (Piano/Flute) and Jason Miranda (Drums), all finally appearing after a lengthy intro for ‘Are You Ready?’ the lead-off single from their new album. Immediately you’re grabbed by the short and curlies although only after performing a double-take at the amount of clobber the band members are all wearing…..surely there is no need for a jacket and scarf here, you’ll be fainting in 10 minutes!
We’re then taken straight into familiar territory with a soaring ‘Funny Bird’ as Donahue swigs from what looks like a bottle of plonk, clearly glad to once more be in front of a live audience, intending to mine a rich seam of their back catalogue in the next hour or so. We’re even treated to a brace from debut ‘Yerself Is Steam’, the flute appearing for ‘Car Wash Hair’ followed by the grunge epic ‘Frittering’.
There’s some of ‘The Light in You’ but not too much, ’Autumn in the Air’, ‘Queen of Swans’ and the terrific ‘Central Park East’ are squeezed in between old favourites. ‘Endlessly’, a track I’d completely forgotten about still sounds wonderfully eerie, complete with its ‘Silent Night’ chorus, similarly ‘Holes’ has lost none of the atmosphere it had when kick-starting the album that saved their musical careers. ‘Opus 40’ is another tour de force, closing their main set in style with a wall of sound.
The encore starts with a curveball, a cover of Sparklehorse’s ‘Sea of Teeth’, followed by a rousing ‘Goddess on a Hiway’, ending with ‘Dark Rising’ as Jonathan flexes his muscles at the breathless crowd.
‘Rev play 6 Music Live during their brief tour of the UK and on this form, they’ll be tearing Maida Vale studios a new arsehole.
Mercury Rev official