REVIEW: Mercury Rev @ The Sage (19.11.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Following the release of their album The Light in You in September, Mercury Rev have embarked on a U.K. tour, playing to a number of sell-out crowds. They were welcomed to the Sage by a packed crowd who, over the course of an hour and forty minutes, became engrossed in the musical master class on show.

The alternative group were handily supported by Nicole Atkins. A stage dowsed in darkness, one shining spotlight on a woman with an electric guitar. Dressed like Florence and in some ways, coming across like a less produced and cooler version of Rae Morris. Atkins provided hauntingly beautiful vocals in what was a refreshing performance compared to the usual singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar combo. The short set was a quality performance that created an entranced atmosphere in the room, though it would have required more diversity if it was much longer.

I am usually cautious of aging bands touring as it so often seems motivated by money, but this night may have converted me. With only Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper remaining from the original line up, the pair surrounded themselves with more youthful comrades in engineer Scott Petito and bassist Anthony Melina. This in turn led to a reinvigorated sound that coursed through the set. The band introduced themselves with a meditative backing track that lingered in the air with wind and timpani sounds echoing throughout the Sage before they launched into tracks The Queen of Swans and Autumn’s In The Air. Each carefully treading the line between fulsome noise and quiet mystique, Donahue owning the stage, gesticulating like a sorcerer.

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Endlessly appeared next and like other classic tracks they played throughout the night, it seemed arranged differently; heavier with more reverb. Indeed every song Mercury Rev played felt as though it engulfed the room, and in this instance it enhanced the quality of the track. They continued with Neil Young cover A Man Needs A Maid, then on Diamonds And Central Park East, a lightshow began to converse with the performance as Donahue utilised a spotlight in dramatic fashion while bubbles escaped from the stage during the latter track.

The standout of the set had to be Opus 40 which began in more solitude; in a chilled almost nursery rhyme like manner before eventually cascading into supreme noise whilst still maintaining that calm demeanour. The track ended in an outstanding instrumental piece that couldn’t out stay its welcome. After the briefest of walks off stage they returned, playing Goddess On A Highway and a softer The Dark Is Rising, which allowed the keys to stand alone and gain some intimacy.

The gig in many ways felt symphonic. Tracks old and new seemed to have been arranged to be played together, movements of a grander art piece. Despite imperfections; the occasional stray or strange note from Donahue, as a listener I couldn’t help but become immersed in every song. Mercury Rev certainly haven’t lost a step and you should definitely see them live.

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