Love as Laughter played for far too long. This review is not about them.
For their latest album and current tour, Modest Mouse brought in two new members and one familiar to the band: Johnny Marr on guitar, Joe Plummer on percussive instruments, and Tom Peloso on a variety of things --predominantly the keyboard.
My own experience with the band’s live performance, as well as the familiar complaints of others (“They suck live, they were all drunk!”) kept my expectations low as far as energy was concerned, so the intensity with which Isaac Brock played, sang, yelped, and screamed surprised me. He knocked over his microphone more times than I can remember, leapt off the stage*, and played his guitar as his younger self had. Marr seemed to be almost posing at times, which is no slight against him: His guitar playing was flawless and his backup vocals impressive. Bassist Eric Judy was the only member to lack energy but more than made up for it with sheer musicianship.
Brock and Marr, positioned at opposite ends of the stage, balanced each other visually as well as sonically, alternating leads. Neither overpowered the other, opting instead to respect when one guitarist deserved the focus of the crowd.
There were a few sound problems plaguing the band’s set: The feedback that has almost become a trademark of the band was easily forgiven, but Peloso’s microphone was never turned on. For the entirety of the show, his backup vocals were missing, but even more noticeable was the absence of the brass. “Spitting Venom” suffered the most from this.
Some of the songs received the appropriate Modest Mouse live treatment, and were turned into extended jams -- but at no point was it overwrought, excessive, or dull. Brock returned to his practice of improvising lyrics in songs like “Trailer Trash” and “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.” The final song, “Spitting Venom,” was perhaps the longest song of the night, with Brock signaling to his bandmates to keep playing. Once the music stopped, the theater was silent with the exception of Brock riffing lines to finish the song. It was a perfect finale.
* - I know this is standard fare for most shows we hear about on this site, but at the Paramount, it stood out.
Set list (complete, but not entirely in order):
- Bury Me with It
- Black Cadillacs
- Paper Thin Walls
- Fire It Up
- The View
- Float On
- Trailer Trash
- Missed the Boat
- We’ve Got Everything
- Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
- Doin’ the Cockroach
- Ocean Breathes Salty
- Spitting Venom