Tuesday, 5 January 2010

669 MEW, Pure Reason Revolution, London Institute of Contemporary Arts, Monday 25 July 2005

Yet another in an increasing number of London jaunts on a school night, but this time there was no debate. We were up for the return of the mighty Mew, having scored tix for their hopefully triumphant return at the ICA before it completely sold out. Yup, it wasn't just us waiting for their return!

So a carload of us decided to brave the alleged war-zone that London has apparently become over the last couple of weeks, thanks to terrorist attacks on the transport systems. However, despite the usual congestion, an inspired plan saw us parking in Pall Mall, just round the corner from the ICA on the Mall, at 10 to 8, and for free! Good thing too, as the Admiralty Arch Car Park charged £13! Ouchie!

The venue itself is a study in contrast - a posh arts theatre lobby leads to an equally posh balcony bar, which then leads into a black-painted, dingy, scuzzy little rock'n'roll room not unlike Oxford Zodiac, with an equally high stage. We wandered in for support Pure Reason Revolution, but quickly wandered out as their initially intriguing wall-of-sound turned into some horrible prog rock doodling and pseudo-choral droning which recalled Jefferson Airplane! In other words, exactly the type of band we fought the punk wars to get rid of!

So we popped back to the bar and had a drink, standing next to Creation boss Alan McGhee! Resisted the temptation to go up to him and say, "Mr. McGhee, don't make me angry...you wouldn't like me when I'm angry!"

Expectations were running high as we wandered back into the venue for Mew's anticipated 9.30 start. After delivering one of the most extraordinary, breathtaking and dazzlingly original albums for, well, ever, in 2003's "Frengers", the big big question was, "what next?" How can they possibly hope to top, or even come close to equalling, that? Well, they kept us waiting for 10 minutes past the allotted time, before coming on to a heroes' welcome from this audience of devotees. Opening with a moody, almost full instrumental number, they were quickly into their stride with a blitzing trio of "Am I Wry? No", "156" and "Snow Brigade", the opening triad from that extraordinary "Frengers" CD. Full of smouldering power, widescreen sound and beauty, they were supreme renditions, ever-so-slightly tinkered with to keep them fresh, and segued into each other perfectly, recalling Pale Saints in that aspect.

As for new stuff, "The Zookeeper's Boy" firmly buried any fears that this might not be up to snuff; this was an epic emotive song of mighty soaring power and beauty, prompting a "Wow!" moment between Rachel and myself. Even amongst Mew numbers, this was special! The magical "She Came Home For Christmas", perfectly complemented by a snow-scaped film projected onto the cloth backdrop, followed, Jonas' vocals an expression of purity and clarity, particularly in the inspirational middle eight. Another couple of newies followed; "Why Are You Looking Grave", a crunchier new number featuring a guest vocalist (an old friend of the band, apparently) projected onto the backdrop - none other than J Mascis! The set closer "Apocalypso" rounded off quite the quickest 45 minutes I've spent recently. Utterly brilliant.

An encore of "Comforting Sounds", Johan again accentuating the bond between this very special band and their audience with a heartfelt and effusive thanks, rounded off this extraordinary experience. All questions answered, all fears buried - Mew are back and this time the world will take notice!

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