Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mission of Burma @ Newbury Comics, 9/12/08

In a way, I was almost disappointed that the Mission of Burma show at the Newbury Comics on Newbury Street was merely excellent. When you swallow without question stories from Our Band Could Be Your Life about how every Mission of Burma show was either terrible or transcendent, it's hard not to be let down. A part of me wanted the show to have been terrible, in light of stories like that, to prove they still had transcendence in them.

On the other hand, that part of me sucks, and the trio of middle-aged men put the dreamy young bands you see at BU Central to shame. Yes, they played the hits, such as they were. "Peking Spring", "Academy Fight Song", and, of course, "That's When I Reach For My Revolver", all made their expected appearances, all played exactly as on the records but with even higher energy (and it bears repeating, even in the same paragraph, that these are middle-aged men playing songs they wrote and recorded in their twenties).

In the band's defense, they played the hits because they didn't apparently have a setlist, and took requests from the audience, a mix of old punks and young fans who wanted to hear the anthems.

Further, they played a fair mix of old and new material, with "Fame and Fortune", off of their old Signals Calls and Marches EP, acting as a launching pad for "2wice", the opener from 2006's The Obliterati, and the disco-meets-"Thunderstruck" bass line of "Donna Sumeria", from the latter album, complementing the Gang-of-Four-on-stimulants "Outlaw", from the former one. They even dragged out "New Nails", one of the most abrasive songs from Vs., by audience request. It sounded better than the record, and that's pretty good for a band whose reputation as a touchstone of alternative rock has largely survived based on their albums.

Just about the only disappointments of the night were the crowd, which made it hard to see the band, and the lack of deviation from the recordings. Even a little improvisation is probably pretty hard in jerky post-punk, but it wouldn't have killed them to change things up a little to show they're not getting complacent as well as old.

Towards the end of the set, Miller asked the crowd if the guitar was loud enough. The crowd consensus was that everything should be louder. "You have all the time in the world to destroy your ears," he said, "and we're glad to help."

--Scott Zaramba

(setlist after the jump!)

Trem Two/1001 Pleasant Dreams/New Nails/Peking Spring/Weatherbox/That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate/Donna Sumeria/Fame and Fortune/2wice/The Enthusiast/Academy Fight Song/Prettiest Girl (?)/That's When I Reach for My Revolver/Outlaw/I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement
Type rest of the post here

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