Modest Mouse at the Orpheum Theatre on April 27

A review of Modest Mouse at the Orpheum Theatre on April 27, 2007

, Staff

If there’s one thing you can say about Modest Mouse, it’s that there is always something going on with the band. Over the years there have been rape charges, DUI’s, members unexpectedly leaving the band, new surprise members and, most recently, incidences of onstage self-mutilation. With all of this in the past, it was impossible to know what to expect at Friday night’s show at the Orpheum

A clearly well-intoxicated Isaac Brock took the stage with his fellow Mice a little later than expected, around 9:45 PM, after sets from opening acts, Man Man and Love as Laughter.& The delay wasn’t that big of a deal. What was a big deal was the fact that absent from the stage was long-time Modest Mouse bass aficionado, Eric Judy, who is apparently recovering from sickness back in Portland.

The opening song, “Paper Thin Walls,” was easily a highlight of the night, with lots of energy from both the crowd and the band. But as I watched I couldn’t help but continue to glance over at the member of Man Man filling in on bass and wondering, “Where is Eric Judy?” Needless to say, the show went on, but the whole set in general seemed to suffer a great deal by the lack of classic Modest Mouse songs.

If you are a fan of the new, radio-friendly Modest Mouse then boy, was this the concert for you. Almost the entire set was comprised of songs off their latest release, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, and 2004’s breakthrough album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (only four songs were not from one of these two albums). Songs “Ocean Breathes Salty” and “The View” were especially well done with old-timer/newcomer Johnny Marr providing the backing vocals, and doing a hell of a job at it for that matter. Unfortunately the best parts of most of the songs played early in the set were plagued with frequent unintentional blips of feedback.

On the bright side though, Marr was quite impressive throughout the entire show and seemed to truly be enjoying himself in front of the enthusiastic Boston crowd, saying at one point, “Someone told us, we’d come to the right place.”

Equally as impressive was how big Modest Mouse looked and sounded. Six members occupied the stage basically the entire time, including two drummers (yea, that’s right) simultaneously whacking away at full drum kits, and another touring member who played everything from trumpet to keyboards to standup bass; quite the change from the band that used to thrash out their old indie classics as a rather sloppy three-piece band.

The lighting show was the most noticeable improvement of their past live performances. With every dynamic section in songs like current single “Dashboard” and& Good News’s “Bury Me With It” the crowd was flooded with blasts from some of the biggest lights I’ve seen at a concert. Sometimes it was hard to tell if we were seeing Modest Mouse or Pearl Jam.

Towards the end of the first set was where the band really shined, with live staples such as “Trailer Trash,” which saw the crowd predictably screaming “fakes!” at the appropriate moments. “Doin’ the Cockroach” and the spacey, Talking Heads-esque, “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” also really brought the house down, with Brock at times screaming lyrics through the pickups of his guitar, a signature move of his. Following the set was a very brief encore ending with new song “Fly Trapped in a Jar” that left the crowd wanting more and feeling a bit confused more than anything. A different selection for a closing tune would have definitely done the show more justice, but hey, that’s just how Isaac rolls.&

It appears that Brock has found some comfort in where he is currently at, playing alongside his long time idol Marr and finally getting some mainstream recognition for his band’s music. Modest Mouse’s live performance is undeniably one of the most original and inspiring you will see on the scene today. Whether or not the new songs hold up as well as the older fan-favorites is debatable and probably will be argued back and forth by Mouse fans everywhere for quite some time. But more importantly, let’s hope that Eric Judy is alright.

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