Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Guided By Voices Relives Its 1990s Heyday

My second favorite rock band of all time rolled in to the Black Cat on Saturday night and proved that, even after all these years, they've still very much got it.

I was a little surprised to see so many young fans up front singing the words to all the new songs GBV played early in its two-plus-hour, 43-song set. As leader Robert Pollard said in his onslaught of comedic comments, "We have 72 albums." So it's not easy to know lyrics (and that doesn't include the dozens upon dozens of side projects for Pollard).

From the minute Rachel and I walked in the door (we later connected with Francis Chung, who took this iconic photo along with many others for DCist), there was a special buzz in the air. We saw old friends before moving up front to witness Obama Press Secretary and GBV mega-fan Jay Carney hanging around backstage. After a solid set from the majestic former GBV lead guitarist Doug Gillard's new band, Carney announced GBV, "one of the three best things ever to come out of Dayton, Ohio."

Pollard was in excellent spirits all night, even if he didn't seem to drink the fish tank of alcohol he has during the several dozen other times I've seen GBV in concert. Some of the feel of the show and his banter were captured nicely by Valerie Paschall of DCist:
A significant chunk of the set was comprised of their most recent release, Cool Planet, and Pollard delighted in pointing out that they were now touring off three albums: Cool PlanetMotivational Jumpsuit and classic album Bee Thousand which turns twenty this year. 
"We're not like the Rolling Stones," said Pollard. "We don't release one song every 15 years." 
Mick & Keith weren't the only target of Pollard's slurring vitriol and he also took stabs at Bruce Springsteen, ("If he's the Boss, I quit"), the record industry in general ("I don't want to make 6 percent!") and Radiohead. Also, unlike the stint in 2010, he let the audience finish off his handle of tequila, so his barbs were more discernible. 
Although the first hour of their set showed more audience enthusiasm during the Bee Thousand tracks—"Gold Star For Robot Boy" was an early spark plug — the show really took a turn when opening act and latter-era GBV guitarist Doug Gillard joined the band for "Teenage FBI." Even the rest of the band seemed to enjoy Gillard's presence onstage—guitarists Mitch Mitchell and Tobin Sprout played the song within two feet of each other and Mitchell gleefully mouthed along with the words despite the cigarette that did not leave his mouth.
The beer flew around over the crowd just like those amazing shows 20 years ago. The audience, including me, pogoed and moshed just like 20 years ago. Pollard and "the classic lineup" kicked around like the showmen they were 20 years ago. What was not to love?

***** out of ***** stars

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