Robert Pollard

Guided by Voices

Guided By Voices at the Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, November 6, 2010, November 7th, 2010

Nov 15, 2010 Web Exclusive
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If anyone doubted the popular importance of the recent Guided By Voices reunion, he or she would only have had to witness the line around the block in front of Philadelphia's Trocadero Theater on November 6 an hour prior to showtime. Stretching down the long street, breaking only in front of doors to various eating establishments, the string of fans anticipating the reunion of GBV's classic lineup was most impressive. And once inside the venue, the excitement was genuinely palpable, the theater abuzz with activity. It has been over a decade since Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Kevin Fennel, Mitch Mitchell, and Greg Demos had played together, making up the seminal GBV lineup that recorded albums like Alien Lanes and the universally acclaimed Bee Thousand. And after a short but most impressive set by Portland's Blitzen Trapper (a performance that would have been undoubtedly more well received if not for the event that was to follow), the stage was set, and, after 20 minutes, the fluorescent light displaying the refrain from the band's Alien Lanes classic, "A Salty Salute" lit: The Club Is Open.

Following a bizarre and surprisingly lengthy spoken word intro, the band emerged, Fennel at the drum kit, and in front Sprout, stately, refined, and looking more like your accountant uncle than any rock-and-roll star; Demos with his '60s mod cool in snazzy red, white, and black striped pants, white shirt, and black vest; Mitchell in black t-shirt emblazoned with the anarchy symbol and with ever-present cigarette hanging from his mouth; and Pollard, the gray-haired star of the show. Opening with "Pimple Zoo" from 1995's Alien Lanes, GBV rocketed through an impressive 39-song set of classics: "Tractor Rape Chain," "Cut-Out Witch," "Shocker in Gloomtown," "Hot Freaks," "Watch Me Jumpstart," "Gold Star for Robot Boy," "Game of Pricks," "My Valuable Hunting Knife," "I Am A Scientist," "Motor Away," "Don't Stop Now," and seemingly endless more. The early gem, "14 Cheerleader Coldfront," from 1992's Propeller, was a mid-set standout. The pace was generally furious, with Pollard's patented high kick and cross-legged stance on full display, and Sprout, while more methodical and precise in his stage presence, showing that he'd lost nothing of what made him such a force in '90s-era GBV.

But if there was one song that seemed to symbolize the entire night, it was "Smothered in Hugs." The sellout crowd was rampantly excitable through the band's 2 hour and 15 minute set, but the vibe was one of sheer shared joy. While a pit of frenzied fans formed in front of the stage, their exuberance could less be described as "moshing" than good-natured, vigorous collective shoving, the crowd stopping to help a friend find glasses that had fallen, or several hitting the ground to look for a dropped iPhone. And rarely does one go to a concert where the friendly vibe extends to so much touching. In fact, this reviewer was hugged, patted, kindly shaken, and high-fived so often that he forgot for most of the night that he was among strangers and not close friends. Hugs were shared like joints at a Grateful Dead concert, culminating ultimately with Pollard offering what was left of his bottle of tequila at the end of the night to be passed among the faithful. Retrospectively, the scene was beautifully unusual in its acceptance and welcoming, something like a small Woodstock for mid-'90s indie kids.

And with it, the audience experience was as much of a "show" as the concert, a complete, mutual enjoyment of a truly spectacular and momentous event. To wit, and the end of the night, after the curtain closed on the band's fourth encore and the song "Weed King," a particularly touchy-feely concertgoer pulled this reviewer aside by the neck saying, a bit too loudly in his ear, "See, indie-rock is about the performance!" On this night, that was true, on stage and off. (www.gbv.com)

 

 

 




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