Show Review: Modest Mouse @ Stubbs (11/8)
Having seen Modest Mouse on several occasions, and in various settings, I headed off to Stubbs this past Tuesday a little skeptical of what I’d see. Before I get onto that, let’s skip ahead to talk about opener Talkdemonic.
I can honestly say, in retrospect, that Talkdemonic was the best band at Stubbs last Tuesday. They don’t have the traditional Portland sound, or at least the one we’ve come to know lately, instead using loops and prerecorded tracks to build, build, build. Using a violin and a drummer might not jump out at you immediately, but once the sound came through, you could see the skill and craftsmanship of the duo. You’ve also got to give credit to the twosome, as it takes a great bit of skill to utilize the various backing tracks, and pull it off to perfection, all while warming up an anticipatory crowd. Hats off to the band, as the did more than step on to the stage, leaving me with the best impression of the evening.
I don’t know what to say about Modest Mouse anymore. Their last two albums have been polished and clean, rarely offering the brilliance that they once gave out so easily. This isn’t a knock on their growing popularity, as that really has nothing do with it. You can’t go listen to Lonesome Crowded West or Moon and Antarctica and tell me they’ve come anywhere near replicating that quality. Perhaps they’ve just lost the heart.
And personally, that shows in the live setting. Isaac Brock did his best to bang out his guitar licks, but that only lasted into a few songs before the group returned to their disinterested stature that they’ve seemed to carry for some time now. They caught my ear by giving a go at “Cowboy Dan,” but even then I felt like the band had given up. Surely I’m in a minority here, as the fans seemed overly-enthusiastic with each track, but playing all these new tracks just doesn’t do justice to the group’s songwriting capabilities. At points, as screams went out for new songs, I wanted to yell at the audience, begging them not to encourage such mediocrity, but instead I just scowled at the stage.
I don’t know what it is with Modest Mouse. They’ve never been a great live band, and that’s always been a knock against them for fans; they still had the songs to back it up. But, as the band has gone on, bringing in characters like Johnny Marr to enhance their sound, they seem to have regressed musically, which doesn’t bode well for their live show. I can honestly say that I’ll never willingly go see them again in the live setting, but I can thank them for bringing out Talkdemonic, the best act last Tuesday at Stubbs.
More shots at the photo site…