Mew / The Dodos - live in Boston (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Mew / The Dodos

live in Boston (2015)

live show

This was a great little double bill on a Sunday night that was a 10-minute bike ride from my place and didn't end terribly late. There's not much else you can ask for. The Dodos played first, opening this final night of Mew's North American tour. I last saw them in March at the nearby Brighton Music Hall down the block, which is about half the size of this venue, Paradise Rock Club. At that gig, they had a respectably big audience of fans that responded warmly; here, it was clear that they were playing to a largely unconverted crowd. I don't remember them initially being mentioned as the direct support act when this tour was announced, so maybe they were a later addition and most tickets were sold by the time their own fans found out. Either way, like last time, they were very solid and especially compelling for a two-piece (guitar loops like those on "Confidence" and "The Current" help), so they probably got some new converts. In fact, though their brand of stripped-down indie rock is pretty straightforward and subtle compared to Mew's bombastic, proggy dream pop cocktail, some of the riffing sounds like it could've been lifted from Mew songs, so it made sense in that context, providing greater potential for crossover appeal. The set went heaviest on their two most recent albums--which is cool, since I'm really only familiar with that part of their catalog--but they also threw in the considerably older and almost flamenco-like "The Season".

Set list (7:59-8:31):

  1. Goodbyes and Endings

  2. Competition


  3. The Season


  4. Confidence

  5. The Current


  6. Precipitation

Mew certainly don't ignore the visual part of their live show; they all wear black tops, which contrasts with the white projection screen behind them, which plays bizarre videos for about half the songs. They're mostly cut-and-pasted, collage figures of humans or various, personified animals, often with exposed skeletal features, strange smiles, and odd, synchronized dancing; some other times, it was imagined outer space images ("Satellites", naturally), or what resembled lightspeed traveling from sci-fi TV and movies ("Am I Wry? No"). There was a whole musical ensemble of animals traveling on a well car or whatever during closer "Comforting Sounds", reminding me of Neutral Milk Hotel artwork. Singer Jonas Bjerre also glides around the stage like he's on skates or roller blades; at the right angle, it's pretty eerie. But it all totally makes sense within the framework of the band's unique sound, which made for a pretty captivating and occasionally thoroughly engrossing time.

The actual performance and music was great, too. "Witness" was almost a comically huge opener, with Queen-sized grandeur and all the players giving energized performances that set the tone for things. Obvious set highlights included "The Zookeeper's Boy" and, maybe it was the sequencing, but "Water Slides" hits far harder live than it does on record. They went heaviest on their new album, /-, and their old fan favorite, 2003's Frengers, but I certainly wouldn't have minded hearing more than two each off my favorite records of theirs--2005's And the Glass Handed Kites and 2009's No More Stories.... Regardless, there was a lot of magic and variety here, with the band's aforementioned hybrid of pop styles--dream, indie, art, progressive--melding together into an arresting set that shows how few bands are really like them.

Bjerre took a guitar for the first time for "Am I Wry? No", after bassist Johan Wohlert spoke of all the band's Boston-bred influences (Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Swirlies), paying love to the city's musical heritage (granted, Dino Jr. is more Western Mass., but all the same) during this last night of their tour, and their first time here in six years.

Set list (9:00-10:11):

  1. Witness

  2. Satellites

  3. Special

  4. The Zookeeper's Boy


  5. Introducing Palace Players

  6. Sometimes Life Isn't Easy

  7. Water Slides

  8. Snow Brigade

  9. She Spider


  10. Piano medley including balladic reprise of "The Zookeeper's Boy"

  11. Making Friends

  12. Rows


  13. Am I Wry? No

  14. 156

    Encore (10:13-10:27):

  15. The Night Believer

  16. Comforting Sounds