Mercury Rev: Stockton International Riverside Festival 01/08/10

First day in a new job, you know what it’s like, nervous, twitchy, greeted by smiles but what’s behind those curious eyes, come on Carl try and make an impression. Well here it is, my first attempt at a review for The Northern Line folk. First job do some research on the house style, right done that, why do all of the reviews start of with a rhetorical question?

My first assignment was to attend the reputable Stockton International Riverside Festival and report on Sunday nights headliners Mercury Rev. Probably my preferred band during the hedonistic era 1995 -2000.   The band was running late, they were due on for 8.50pm and it was now 9.00pm. The crowd which were made up from a ranging demographic from the older fans hoping to hear ‘Car Wash Hair’ or ‘Chasing the Bee’ to the younger punters listening out for favourites like ‘Opus 40’ and ‘The Dark is Rising’ the later being used on many montage TV highlight packages and should be familiar, waited expectantly. It’s not a huge jam-packed crowd as one might have expected for the finale at SIRF, it certainly isn’t the crowd that witnessed Calvin Harris the previous night, but hopefully this won’t deter the Maverick Jonathan Donahue and his band.

The lights come on and an impressive cheer welcomed the band members as they grace the stage, wearing all black, obviously, but were is Mr. Donahue? The effervescent front man swaggers on to the stage sporting a graying beard, eyes bulging, huge smile with one fist punching the air and the other swinging a bottle of red plonk, wait there readers it’s Blossom Hill, I would have thought the people of SIRF would have least provided these pioneering rock stars with a bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape, he doesn’t seem to mind.

Mercury Rev rattled through tracks from their breakthrough album Deserter’s Songs including ‘Holes’ and ‘Opus 40’ these were intercut with tracks from their most recent album Snowflake Midnight, these went down well with the younger generation especially the tracks laced with a mind-manifesting fast paced dance beat. The band had obviously taking into account that they were playing to a majority of new faces who probably hadn’t been exposed to their music before and had a couple of surprises up their sleeves.

The first surprise came in the form of a psychedelic version of Peter Gabriel’s 1977 hit ‘Solsbury Hill’, which after initially raising a few eyebrows a wry smiles went down well and the second surprise came in the shape of Talking Heads anthem ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and you may ask yourself why do these covers? The simple answer is because Mercury Rev are capable of adding their own twist to such loved songs without annihilating them and they also have a history of producing interesting takes on classic tracks, see their double disc compilation ‘The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006’ for more details.

Sadly but not unexpectedly the band stuck to songs from 1998 to 2008 omitting tracks that the older fans were anticipating. Donahue danced and grooved round the stage orchestrating each crescendo and drum beat, whilst ‘Grasshopper’ lurched over his guitar and twisted sounds from his instrument that folk at SIRF had been starved of all day. The performance was dynamic, Donahue’s earnest, high-pitched vocals reverberated in the ear of the audience, and the melodic songs were welcomed by the sing along audience before it phased into the high tempo climax ‘Senses on Fire’ which erupted into a fitting resolution. The band paid their respects to a responsive crowd, which thoroughly enjoyed their journey through the chasms of Mercury Rev’s hits, the crowd left Riverside whispering to themselves “Holes dug by little moles”.

Many Thanks to Christine Wilson for the stunning images.

By CarlP on August 17, 2010

Check out all the pics

2 Comments » RSS Comment Feed

  1. Great review Carl, very well written I think and a true telling of the Finale at SIRF and Mercury Revs fantastic performance. I’d never heard them live before and thought they were great and I even got a hug from the lead singer when they came off the stage – one of the big benefits of getting involved in the event.

    Look forward to reading your next review.


    Comment by Christine Wilson — August 18, 2010 @ 8:05 am

  2. Yep!… and stunning pics Christine. You make a good team!

    Comment by Dave — August 18, 2010 @ 11:31 am

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