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flag US - New York - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 29 - 03/02/99

Mercury Rev
Prime Club, Cologne, January 24th 1999

How often do you rush to the merchandise stand after a show to get a glimpse of the upcoming tour dates printed on the shirts and think: Hamburg, Amsterdam, Frankfurt... that's all only 300, 400 kilometres away - gotta be there!? Yup, not very often indeed. But for Mercury Rev no distance can be too far right now. What the New Yorkers get together on stage night after night is so staggeringly good, that you just cannot miss your chance to catch a little more of the magic.

Before I start: Mercury Rev '99 have very little in common with the freaky Indie-art-rock revue that last toured Europe in '95. But they've gained tons of confidence. Sometimes it's a little bit too much for their own good, actually. Every other 'normal' band for example would play a perfect pop song like Goddess On A Hiway as part of the encores, but Mercury Rev aren't a normal band and so they actually start their blazing set with Goddess ...! Wow! Next is Tonite It Shows, and after only two songs it's obvious that we're in the presence of greatness. Not only the audience is more than happy, Jonathan - with glitter around his eyes! - is smiling non-stop.

It's hard to believe, but with two keyboard players and the goal to be even better live than on their masterpiece Deserter's Songs, Mercury Rev are light-years better on stage than on record. The sound is crystal-clear and it catches - both band and punters - like a wave and lifts you up into hitherto unknown heights. Retro-Space-Rock at its best. But not only the new tunes sound like miniature space-operas, even the old and often edgy songs sound fresh and catchy. Frittering sounds in one word apocalyptic, and their early classic Car Wash Hair sounds like, well, Car Wash Hair, only better! And there are cover versions, performed the way they should be: Very focused on the original, but better: Jonathan steps up to the microphone and sings: "I don't believe in an interventionist God"... Mercury Rev do Nick Cave's Into My Arms and they do it perfectly! You just hope that Nick himself never gets to hear this version or he will lay awake at night wondering why the Bad Seeds can't come up with a touching version like this. A quite perfect mix of power and melancholy. Same goes for the encore Isolation by The Plastic Ono Band and for a moment Jonathan sounds more like John Lennon than the former Beatle himself. Then it's all over now baby blue, roadie Slouch unplugs the guitars and switches off the amps. But hey, there they go again to return for a blazing feedback-orgy: Cortez The Killer by Neil Young it is, and for minutes on till the end Jonathan just holds his guitar to the ear and listens to the deafening sound. A quick 'thank you' and they disappear. But we, the audience have to thank Mercury Rev for 90 minutes full of magic and energy out of this world, that, with the possible exception of Spiritualized, no other band on this planet could match. We really could do with a few more bands like Mercury Rev...

P.S. Of course I went to see them again, two weeks later at the Nachtleben in Frankfurt. The show was as good as the one in Cologne, even though the band was a bit tired. Fortunately, the set-list was pretty much different, no Into My Arms, instead we got a very nice version of Lou Reed's Caroline Says from his Berlin album. Go see them if you can! The Revs tour the US in March and April, return to Europe for festivals in May and tour Australia and New Zealand in the Fall.

Copyright © 1999 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Mercury Rev articles/reviews: Secret Migration, a celebration of music.

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