Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Esplanade Theatre
2nd August 2007 

Not being familiar with the Rev’s live modus operandi, I expected a sedate, chamber pop affair – judging from the recorded work of their last three albums.
I was wrong.
Fifteen minutes after the announcement that the gig had begin, the fairly sizable crowd became restless as video clips accompanied by soundtrack music provided the entertainment.
Then, the band turned up and launched into “Funny Bird” – and I mean like a rocket launch! The lights and sound were jacked to the max and for the rest of the night, the audience was treated to a visual and sonic assault that was sweet and loud, a mix of pleasure and pain that qualified as a memorable concert experience.
Jonathan Donahue was, of course, the focal point as he pranced and preened, alternating between campy mime and theatrical conductor, he was the consummate showman. Donahue was in good voice too, and credit to the sound person who managed to keep his voice distinct above the cacophony.
The band played songs mainly from the last three albums with the highlights for me being, of course, the Deserters Songs. The fragile brilliance of “Tonite It Shows,” “Opus 40” and “Holes” brought tears to my eyes. Simply gorgeous. Also, particularly significant was an apocalyptic “Dark Is Rising” with a final chord that threatened to completely blow out my sinuses! Another cool highlight (and a pleasant surprise) was a cover of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” which totally came from left field.
All told, a night of wondrous discovery.
The band had been billed as purveyors of dream-pop but in truth this was more like noise pop as Grasshopper coaxed feedback-laden waves of distortion from his axe, looking ever the cool rock star in his slick shades. The rest of the band was in top form, the cornerstone being Jeff Mercel with his fine keyboard embellishment, which gave the sound colour and flavour.
At the end, the pleased crowd gave the band a standing ovation and the band returned to play out “Goodess On A Hiway” and “Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp” before departing.
Kudos to the Baybeats 2007 organizers for bringing Mercury Rev over to kick off the festival and thanks to Donahue, Grasshopper, Mercel and company for an inspiring night!

(From 2007)

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