Mew

support Choir Of Young Believers
author AP date 10/11/09 venue Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK

The Shepherd’s Bush Empire is an unusual venue. While the standing area in front of the stage is not very long, the theatre is extremely tall, rooming three seated levels stacked on top of each other. Sitting at the second level, one almost feels as though one is directly on top of the band, and while this improves visibility a great deal, it also means that the floodlights that Mew in particular were fond of using, point directly at one’s eyes. Fortunately I’m not epileptic. Because theatres like this is the ideal venue for an artsy space rock band like Mew – their music is, after all, quite theatrical on its own.

Choir Of Young Believers

The one thing to take home from Choir Of Young Believer's show tonight is that Jannis Noya Makrigiannis is a phenomenal singer and songwriter. His emotional, expressionistic voice creates a kind of melancholic, drowsy atmosphere that is impossible to escape. One's eyelids become heavier and heavier during the band's minimalistic passages (and that's not necessarily meant in a bad way, because it seems like this dream state is exactly what Jannis wants his music to portray), and when crescendos of no less beautiful noise rise out of them, one feels privileged to witness music so well-written and so delicate. Unfortunately the flipside of the coin is that, given the immense length of most songs, it becomes difficult to maintain focus and indeed to stay awake - especially when the various band members feel comfortable just standing there and soothing our ears. It's the kind of music that one would rather listen to than watch.

Mew

Mew's stage setup is as strange as their latest album. In the centre back of the stage are two platforms of variable height - one for the keyboard and one for the bassist, and the drumkit has been promoted to a more immediate position on front stage left. The complete lack of amps is also curious; in their usual place are two thin screens to accompany the white backdrop. Strategic lights are placed to create a truly stunning visual experience, with floodlights, strobe lights and flickering blue lights designed to resemble stars, scattered under the platforms.

Judging from the opening, Mew have learned a thing or two from their tour with Nine Inch Nails. The band enters in almost complete darkness, with plumes of smoke gushing onto the stage, to the orchestral sound of "Hymn" and "Reprise". Strobe lights accentuate the building crescendo in the latter, which then neatly flows into "Hawaii" and "Special" - during which projects behind and on either side of the stage project the skeleton of a dancing gazelle onto the screens. Already at this point it is obvious that we're in for something extraordinary.

Jonas' voice sounds even more celestial live than it does on record, and his showmanship is worth commending. The confidence with which he delivers his falsetto is breathtaking, staring upwards at an angle to project the image of an ethereal being. Granted, following the concert NB and I concluded that his voice lacks power and that sometimes it feels like it isn't going anywhere, but delivering vocals of this kind without ever missing a note is something few singers can claim to be able to do. Those sections were the other band members contribute backing vocals are especially impressive, with a fantastic harmonic interplay that sends shivers running down my spine.

Then there's the sheer volume of the whole thing. As soft and sentimental as Mew's music may be, they will not settle for soothing our ears like their compatriots just before. No, Mew make damn sure that every unconventional beat thumps at the bottom of our stomachs and that every dissonant note in the music sends tremors running down our bones. Where all this noise is coming from is beyond me, because, as mentioned, there are no amps to be seen anywhere in the vicinity of the stage.

The performance itself leaves little to be desired, as every song is delivered with such professionalism and heartfelt conviction that it makes me wonder if Mew spend months preparing each tour to the tiniest detail. Watching music like this unfold before one's eyes is an experience beyond the reach of words - which those readers who watched the band at Roskilde Festival last year can no doubt attest to. Mew's music is itself a journey - and when coupled with projections of starlit skies, abstract paintings, strange waltzing creatures and clips that are too absurd to even describe, the experience is almost otherworldly. You just stand (or in our case, sit) there and take it in.

Setlist:

01. Hymn

02. Reprise

03. Hawaii

04. Special

05. Zookeeper's Boy

06. Am I Wry? No

07. 156

08. Apocalypso

09. Saviours Of Jazz Ballet

10. Bamse

11. Uda Pruda

12. Beach

13. Introducing Palace Players

14. Sometimes Life Isn't Easy

15. White Lips Kissed

16. Silas The Magic Car

17. Repeaterbeater

18. Snow Brigade

--Encore--

19. Comforting Sounds

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