Tuesday, 12 January 2010

648 MERCURY REV, Grand Drive, Bristol Bierkeller, Monday 8 November 2004

Two auspicious returns - one a triumph, the other considerably less so. First time back at the Bierkeller, my old 80's haunt, for 7 years (indeed, first time ever for Rachel!) and a first gig in over 3 years for the returning Mercury Rev. What to expect from this chameleonic band this time around? Hit the venue at 8 - not impressed with the heavy-handed stewarding outside and confusing door queue system. The venue itself hasn't changed one jot - still a crowded bar, still a low ceiling!

Down the front for support Grand Drive, on at 8.45. An acoustic 3-piece from London, they peddled a countrified sparse sound somewhere between inoffensive and dull. Certainly better when I'd seen them before, and mostly ignored by the crowd, who only really took notice of their closing number, a Queens Of The Stone Age cover!

Looking around this venue, old ghosts of gigs gone by crawled out of the woodwork. A fittingly eerie atmosphere for the return of The Rev, who kept us waiting until 9.40, then ambled on to no fanfare but to a rapturous welcome.

The set however was an absolute triumph. Jonathan Donahue, his face the picture of satisfied serenity throughout, led his band through a supreme set of their haunting, elegiac mood music, the 5-piece "live" setting adding pace, power and passion to the wispy fragility of the songs. Premièring numbers from their forthcoming "The Secret Migration" CD, some of the newies, particularly "My Love" and "Wilderness" sounded stunningly powerful. With a recurrent strand of the theme of nature, this has the potential to be a quite brilliant album. I've previously referred to Jonathan Donahue as the coolest rock star on Planet Earth, and he underlined that tonight with his performance. Minimal yet mesmeric, his serene expression nevertheless giving away the fact he was having a whale of a time, a simple, "thanks everybody. Really," showing his delight at the positive reception the new songs were receiving. His applauding the audience as The Rev deservedly took a lengthy bow following their encore underlined this. Haunting,dramatic, powerful, emotive - this set was all you'd want from Mercury Rev. They're back - with a vengeance!

The Bierkeller, however, is one to be avoided now! Apart from the heavy-handed stewarding (which continued inside the venue - one punter allegedly being told to delete photos he took on his digital camera during the show!), the NCP car park opposite now costs £6.50 to park! Sod that!

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