Live review: Mercury Rev at Trinity Centre, Bristol (5 Oct ’15)
A career-spanning set of atmospheric dream pop seamlessly balanced old favourites with songs from latest record ‘The Light In You’
The church hall of Bristol’s Trinity Centre seems like an inauspicious setting for a Mercury Rev gig – a Scout Group meeting yes, but not necessarily a show from the masters of kaleidoscopic dream pop. First though is support act, and Bella Union label mate, Holly Macve. A Yorkshire-born girl with a distinct yodel in her voice, her set is full of stark noir country and songs like Shell, Heartbreak Blues and All Of Its Glory manage to quieten the murmurings of those queueing for drinks at the bar.
Such background noise isn’t a concern for Mercury Rev. From the opening synth blasts of Are You Ready, they invite you to enter their world, and much like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, it is a world of shimmering light and one fraught with danger. Frontman Jonathan Donahue is a mesmerising puppet master, directing his band and the audience to sway with every movement of his arms. Within moments everyone has forgotten their humdrum surroundings.
The set is a career-spanning one. New songs such as Central Park East sit seamlessly alongside old favourites such as Holes, Diamonds and Tides Of The Moon. There is even time to play a couple of tracks from the band’s debut album Yerself Is Stream, with Frittering showcasing the enchanting flute playing of Jesse Chandler. An atmospheric cover of Neil Young’s A Man Needs A Maid sounds perfectly at home in the middle of the performance and, throughout the night, the band’s Indian influences can be heard clearer than ever in the pulsing rhythms which drive much of the music.
Binding everything together is Donahue, the wine-swigging conductor with enough magic in his voice to enrapture those stood beneath him. As the band return for an encore of Goddess On A Highway and The Dark Is Rising, his fingertips send electrical pulses into the crowd and they have no choice but to raise their arms at his command. Even if they hadn’t already fallen under his spell, the music that Mercury Rev made tonight would have bewitched any audience.