Tuesday, 9 February 2010

597 PEDRO THE LION, MEW, Saint Joan, London 93 Feet East, Thursday 26 June 2003

A gig which could quite easily have gone "the way of the pear", turned out to be a startling triumph from a band that is rapidly joining the pantheon of the very special indeed. Rachel picked up on this gig the day before, so we rapidly sorted tix, and I persuaded a work colleague that he could put off a house viewing but couldn't put off rock'n'roll! So we hit the road at 5.15, and after a long tube ride to Liverpool Street and a hike through Spitalfields Market to find the venue, we arrived at 8. Of course, the first people we ran into at this smart little club was our friends David and Kevin from Seafood, doing the DJ chores tonight! Caught up with them before first band, Saint Joan, who clearly had been listening to a lot of Kristen Hersh, but their low-fi strum-alongs were cloying and indistinct rather than hypnotically melancholy.

The front got a little busy for the entrance of Mew, just after 9.30. Singer Jonas came onstage and warned us that as their equipment had seemingly all broken down simultaneously earlier in the day, tonight's set was going to be, "a little different", as he played an unfamiliar and gloomy little solo opener. The band then joined him for the low-key numbers "Symmetry" and "Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed", all brooding and slow-burning, but not the burstingly plangent pop of the likes of "Am I Wry? No" or "156" (both bravely omitted tonight) that we'd anticipated. However, the set really hit top gear for next number, "She Came Home For Christmas", which was starkly magnificent, emotive and pure, with Jonas' clear-as-a-bell vocals a prominent feature. The jagged, angular spookiness of "She Spider" was next up, Jonas admitting, "some of our gear still works," as the band made the most of it with a brilliant rendition. By set closer, another stellar, absorbing "Comforting Sounds", we stood convinced that we were again witnessing true greatness, a band who'd tuned adversity into a resounding triumph. A standing ovation from the awestruck crowd, and sadly unfulfilled chants for an encore, were no less than Mew deserved.

We gathered our wits after this superb set before Pedro The Lion joined us at 10.30. So slow-fi as to be stationary on last viewing, Boston 2000, this latest version of da Lion was a bass-free 2-piece ("Jesus is our bassist - he's more reliable than our last one," was the explanation from mainman David Bazan), who conversely sounded more upbeat and robust than the previous fragile hush. They were also quite good, in an American Music Club meets Grandaddy kind of way, but as with OK Go recently, they paled into utter insignificance after Mew. So after 4 numbers we bade farewell to Kev Seafood and left, to get a jump on the way home.

Wrong! After waiting 20 minutes for a Hammersmith and City train that never came, we switched to the Central line, getting back to the car just before midnight. We then hit an inexplicable amount of traffic on the M4 roadworks near Slough, reducing us to a crawl, and didn't get home until 1.30. D'oh! It takes a very special band indeed to keep us up so late on a school night these days - luckily we saw a very special band tonight in the magnificent Mew!

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