Wednesday, 16 December 2009

691 MEW, Envy And other Sins, London Shepherd's Bush Empire, Thursday 9 February 2006

Suffering with a banging migraine today, but there was no way I'd miss this gig! This, Mew's biggest UK headliner to date, promised to be a real event, so we were on our way at 6, Rachel and myself with Tim and Penny, parking up at 8 and just missing first band the Perishers. Shame.

Took a position by the bar, stage right, as the place filled up - mainly with tall blond/e people who insisted on standing in front of us! Main support Envy And Other Sins were on at 8.30 - as before they were togged up like the Farmer's Boys and playing some frenetic post-Britpop New Wave jangle. For some reason, their itchy rhythms and intrinsic tunefulness recalled Kaiser Chiefs and a bit of Hot Hot Heat's bounciness, and despite being a bit lost on the big stage, they made a favourable impression again, with some memorable tunes.

So all was set for the entrance of Mew at 9.30. A rejigged stage set-up, with Johan on a riser behind vocalist Jonas, and Silas' drumkit to one side, also reflected a reworked set, with Silas' drum stomp getting the opening taut, funky "Special" under way. This, in fitting with their new-found status as Empire hosts, reflected a heightened sense of perfection and professionalism, all the hard work immediately worthwhile. Next up, "Shelter", occasionally discordant, had never sounded better, and the opening of "Am I Wry? No", like surf breaking in your face, was both refreshing and shocking in its strident noise.

We were spot-on with our pre-gig belief that this was an "event", perfectly planned and executed to the letter, the weird, baroque and dreamlike imagery projected onto the backdrop dovetailing perfectly into the ephemeral, gossamer quality of the music and untouchable cool of the band themselves. Spontaneous it was definitely not, with each move mapped with military precision. But it gave up none of its awe, beauty or emotion as a consequence. "Zookeepers Boy", this time late on in the set, was once again the brilliant highlight, at which point Rach and I decanted to the back to watch the set finale. Encores of "She Spider", jagged and harsh, and a soothing final "Comforting Sounds" rounded off this perfect 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Elation mixed with melancholy afterwards - as Mew get bigger and bigger, they're being swept up by undeserving people, as our less-than-joyful gig experience tonight (too many people, too rude, too tall!) proved. However, they deserve it, of that there's no doubt, and overall, it's been a pleasure and a privilege to accompany them on another step towards their inevitable superstardom.

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