Monday, March 14, 2005

Let Me Take You On A Black Country Ride

Mercury Rev/The Duke Spirit, Birmingham Carling Academy, Friday March 11 2005.

In what is becoming a disturbing trend, Dead Kenny misses the first few tunes from The Duke Spirit thanks to their ludicrously early 7.15pm start time to allow the show to finish for the 10pm Friday night curfew. Almost exactly twelve months on from seeing Liela Moss and Co. for the first time, supporting The Shins in the Academy 2 upstairs, it's good to see them adapt so well to the natural progression of a larger arena with their starpower and powerful riffing intact. And Dead Kenny can never get enough of listening to their thunderous live rendition of 'Red Weather' which yet again brings the set to a storming conclusion. And you know what they say about a red sky at night being a groovy flocker's delight: The Spirit's debut album is set to follow in April.

Interval crowdwatch: you've just never seen so many barrel-chested balding blokes in their 30s and 40s as in the Academy tonight, it's enough to give your average British modern novelist nightmares for the rest of their lives!

The knight's entertainment resumes with 'Arise', whose propulsive energy provides joust the right start to another Mercury Rev live experience. This track is one of the many gems from 'The Secret Migration', an album which Dead Kenny is slowly beginning to consider as good as anything they've previously produced, and tunes from this new record dominate the first half of the set, with 'Secret For A Song' and 'My Love' also featuring prominently.

With their sharp suits; wide grins and filmed backdrop featuring a rotation of wise and witty quotes from learned people, Mercury Rev are becoming quite the showmen these days (a kind of U2 for people with, y'know, matter between their ears), and the second half of the set features generous crowdpleasing portions from 'Deserters Songs', plus 'Spiders And Flies' from 'All Is Dream' as well as a cover of Dylan's 'Gotta Serve Somebody' (virtually unrecognisable from the original, featured on Parallax View's Lest Ye Forget album Slow Train Coming) which they jam in between two other songs for no discernable reason but their own perverse pleasure. Highlights include a well-drilled 'Holes' and 'Goddess On A Hi-Way' which, with its' silly punning and sing-song qualities, continues to be as ridiculous as it is gloriously uplifting.

In conclusion, it's easy at times to take Mercury Rev for granted, and in truth there are many moments when they do indeed teeter precariously on the edge of self-parody, but the strength and confidence of their live performances retain the power to mesmerise us all into becoming believers again.


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