In week which saw the likes of DIY forefathers, Shellac, the buzz artist of 2015 that is Father John Misty, and the idiosyncratic Julia Holter all descend upon Brisbane, it was the irrepressible Mercury Rev that emphatically stole the show. A sonic bout of grandiosity filled the confines of Brisbane’s musical institution better known as The Zoo.
Mercury Rev’s legend is well documented. I don't intend to elaborate on why Deserter’s Songs or All is Dream are landmarks of the indie music scene over the past twenty years. There have been many who have eloquently documented these truths of the past. This space is about this live performance and just how moving it was.
Jonathan Donahue enters in clad more appropriate for colder climes, however this doesn’t deter Mercury Rev’s proverbial heartbeat. As summarised quite succinctly by my wife, Donahue could be a character out of Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is the band’s orchestrator, dragging his audience into his world for ninety minutes. A world brimming with fantasy and nature; the themes which have made Mercury Rev stand on their own for two decades as true originals.
‘The Queen of Swans’, the opening track from the dazzling new album, The Light In You, holds a raw grandeur live. The chorus trades neo-psychadelia for a barrage of shoegaze by the band’s engine room, Sean ”Grashopper” Mackowiak. Straight away you can feel you are within the realm of something special. The stripped back ‘Are You Ready’ is bassist Anthony Molina’s time to shine - a rocking number upon the framework of his nagging bass lines. The song itself is one of the great feats during The Light In You. ‘Central Park East’ and ‘Autumn’s in the Air’ are both equally as stunning.
Then there’s the old guard. ‘You’re My Queen’ is a more upbeat version to the one on record. Naturally it astounds, and anyone who has held an ear to the live cut will agree. ‘Diamonds’ is presented at a snail’s pace, as Donahue almost narrates the words to his audience who, by now, are truly mesmerised. ‘Opus 40’ is another track that has endured a reworking, now a audible behemoth which rubs shoulders with My Bloody Valentine’s holocaust section of ‘You Made Me Realise’. An incredible sequence of lights, feedback and first-class virtuoso.
The encore includes the venerable ‘Goddess on a Hiway’, while the staple closer that is ‘The Dark is Rising’ caps off an evening that constitutes 2015’s finest live performance.
On one hand, to witness something as special as this with so few people is simply captivating. On the other [hand], it’s extremely disappointing, considering something so majestic fails to garner the wider audience it so justly deserves. Sadly, that’s the Brisbane music scene in 2015, which continues to demonstrate an alarming precariousness. Sure, as we get older the soul destroying banality of the everyday does its best to thwart our enthusiasm, making it more difficult to be blown away by certain things. It's still possible, though. Things can be more than just good. They can be incredible. Mercury Rev’s live performance more than proved that.
The Queen of Swans
The Funny Bird
Autumns in the Air
Are You Ready?
You’re My Queen
Central Park East
Tides of the Moon
Godess on a Hiway
The Dark is Rising
By Simon K.