Guided by Voices
Guided By Voices: The Paradise, Boston, MA, July 11, 2016,
Jul 19, 2016 Web Exclusive
Two and a half hours. 50 songs. People were complaining it was $35 a ticket but break that down and it's 23 cents a minute, for two and half hours of Pure Rock 'N' Roll. Robert Pollard's still got the pipes and the poses. And made great use of them without any sign of flagging during the entire striped-white-jet-powered show. He took liberties with the melodies of classics such as "Tractor Rape Chain" and "Official Iron Men Rally Song" (adding a nice "not again" after "open chin") but such alterations only added to the songs, proving they are still very much alive even after 20+ years. The ecstatic crowd was joyously singing the main melodies anyway, so why not? And many is the time he spins wide arcs with the mic cord, pure rock singer style, into a perfect catch before raising microphone back to mouth. After a very powerful version of "Cut Out Witch" he notices he's got mic in hand at hip level, turned outwards, and comments on this "Robert Plant mic cock." Then announcing "If I was the singer of Led Zeppelin, they might've been a better band." He's full of them tonight, assuring us that "if Badfinger had recorded 'Game of Pricks' it would've been a hit." How Guided By Voices' version ever was not is a great unsolved mystery, reinforced by the intensity it was performed this evening, Pollard himself especially into it.
The set is heavy on Ricked Wicky songs ("I just like saying 'Ricked Wicky,'" says Pollard) and indeed opened with R.W.'s "Mobility," water springing off the drum heads as Kevin March pounded it in. Straight into "Glittering Parliaments" and then "Tractor Rape Chain" and "Back to the Lake." During the set proper it was too long between any non-new GBV songs and there was a noticeable surge in enthusiasm when those came along. Besides the aforementioned ones we got "Echos Myron," (a surprising) "Blimps Go 90," the classics coagulating more at the end with a riotous "Glad Girls," "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory," and "I Am a Scientist." But—and it's difficult to think of any other example where this might be true—with Pollard's sheer output, and given the length of the set, you're bound to hear songs you've never heard before or might've only heard in passing as you're trying to keep up with his half dozen or so releases per year. And you realize with a pleasurable faux-reluctant sigh that there's still much more of quality to buy. The Boston Spaceships songs are particularly impressive—"Tabby & Lucy," "Come On Baby Grace," and "Question Girl All Right." Pollard himself announces that "all of them smoke." And even he isn't always on top of which album features which song—"This is 'Authoritarian Zoo' from Motivational Jumpsuit...not really it's from Cool Planet. Fooled ya, fooled myself." "Miles Under The Skin" is introduced with "I think it might be from Coast to Coast Carpet of Love." And "Make Use" is "from the Matador years".
Even when not comparing himself with other bands, he's got some great ego-driven banter, introducing "Hotel X" from new album Please Be Honest as "this is the opening track of side two. Who introduces the opening track of side two? I do." The set is heavy on the new record with eight songs total from it being performed. Pollard explaining that he needed a reason to revive the Guided By Voices "brand name...like McDonalds," and that he played all the instruments on the album himself. Highlights including "Kid On a Ladder," "Eye Shop Heaven" ("the grand finale of Please Be Honest"), and "My Zodiac Companion." Nearing the end of the set proper, "Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft" off From A Compound Eye is twice as long as anything yet, with a full-on rock outro you can feel in your bones. Followed by the also lengthy Ricked Wicky song, "Map And Key," and into "Glad Girls" ("back by popular demand") which sees the house erupt. And the energy maintains with "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory." As soon as he kicks in with "she runs through the night," the entire floor surges forward as one, pointing at Pollard as if some signal has been sent, triggering such a response in our brains.
The encores are IMMENSE. Coming back out and launching into "Shocker In Gloomtown," it was as the crowd plugged into some magnificent power source, perpetually washing over with great waves of Joyous Rock 'N' Roll—the feeling was enormous, everyone pushing their way up front. Even the atmosphere seemed to change. There was no discernible difference between what was happening on the stage and the GBV of 20 years ago. Over "Shocker's" dying tones, Pollard's shouting "Hugs! Hugs! Hugs!" and it took a few seconds for me to fully realize they were launching into "Smothered In Hugs," the prospect seeming too much to ask for. And thinking it couldn't get any better than that, I was pleased to be corrected as they rounded out this mighty trio of a first encore with "Motor Away," Pollard throwing in some excellent "oo's" over the outro. Just to recap, that was "Shocker In Gloomtown," "Smothered In Hugs," "Motor Away." WOW.
As you can see it's getting difficult for me to be objective about this encore, even more so for the second one. As I, a 40-year-old man, was pogoing, shouting along, and pointing at Pollard with wild, ecstatic abandon. Phenomenal version of "A Salty Salute" begins encore number two. Pollard then taking time to give a shout-out as many of his favorite bands have come from Boston—Aerosmith, Mission of Burma, Big Dipper, Pixies. Then into a wonderful version of "Don't Stop Now" from Under the Bushes Under the Stars, the crowd joyously singing the b.v.'s. Then ending on "the only song worthy of a cover," and let me tell you, Robert Pollard singing The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" makes so much sense it's frightening. And amazing. And life-affirming. As was the gig. Go see them.
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