[GIG REVIEW] Mew @ Village Underground, London 14.12.2015

The layered synths of the intro track, along with the soft colours bathing the stage in light  swirl up to their breaking point before cutting out completely as Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen begins the pounding drum beat to opening tune ‘Witness’, accompanied solely by the flashing white strobe, his band mates yet to enter the stage. This moment of raw energy bursting forth is invigorating and exciting, and perhaps best explained within the context of the whole night…

Titled ‘An Evening With Mew’ this has the air of a slightly out of the ordinary show. Things start familiarly enough with the supremely talented Rosborough, a singer-songwriter from Derry in Northern Ireland who peppers his support set with emotionally charged ditties complete with loop-pedal wizardry and vocal acrobatics. After receiving a really warm reception from the crowd he leaves the stage, ready to host Mew for their first set of the evening, a short acoustic segment revisiting old rarities.

An act performing two different sets on one night is fairly unusual, but not unheard of. It is the low-key nature of Mew’s first appearance that gives the night its pleasant close and communal vibe. A further aide to this is bassist Johan Wohlert’s endearingly awkward stage chat (showing that even rockstars can find it tricky to chat to a room full of 500 people sometimes…). This intimate and cosy vibe is not lost on the band who chat playfully amongst themselves and Wohlert’s jokes that “when your management calls you up and asks if you want to open for Mew you just don’t say no!” in reference to the slightly surreal set-up.

The song selection of the acoustic part of the show is made up of welcome rare cuts and well-constructed reinterpretations of newer tracks. A highlight from most recent album, ‘+-‘, ‘Waterslides’ goes down well but the biggest cheers are reserved for the likes of ‘Frengers’ tunes ‘Symmetry’ and ‘Beyond the Drapes’, ‘Why are You Looking Grave?’ from ‘Mew….And the Glass Handed Kites’ and early B-side ‘That Time on the Ledge’. This stripped back segment does a good job of showing off the band’s songwriting talent removed from the more sonically experimental recordings we are used to, as well as the rockier elements their music often entails.

Returning to the main set of the night, the band members join their stranded drummer stage one by one and complete rousing renditions of an opening four-punch (all running musically straight into each other) of ‘Witness’, ‘Satellites’, ‘Special’ and ‘The Zookeepers Boy’. The sheer power of these tracks live is emphasised ten-fold compared to the record, and provides a fantastic and electrifying contrast to the chilled feel of the music up to this point. Following this is a slight climb-down in intensity after the breathless opening, as the band perform ‘Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy’ from the impeccably named album ‘No more stories are told today I’m sorry They washed away no more stories The world is grey I’m tired Let’s wash away”.

After this the energy-levels are ratcheted back up for the double of ‘Frengers’ standouts ‘Snow Brigade’ and ‘She Spider’. The former provides the highest and most animated pogoing of the night, and possibly the loudest shouting along of the anthemic chorus.  

Then momentarily we’re back in chill-land as lead singer Jonas Bjerre performs a medley, accompanied only by piano, of ‘Clinging to a Bad Dream’, ‘The Zookeepers Boy’ and ‘Louise Louisa’.  After this we get ‘+-‘ tunes ‘Making Friends’ and the epic ‘Rows’, the latter potentially using the projected imagery on the screens behind to best effect. Throughout the show this has been by turns showing beautiful land- and star-scapes and eerie and twisted version of the members of the band. For the outro to ‘Rows’ we see the band in monkey form disconcertingly singing along with the real life members.

It’s almost the end of the main set, but not before two crowd favourites- the imperious ‘Am I Wry? No’ and haunting ‘156’ which both go down an absolute treat sending the already hyped audience into raptures.

The band leaves the stage to wild applause, and makes the crowd wait briefly before the inevitable encore. But what an encore. The beautiful and pop-inspired early single ‘She Came Home For Christmas’ is first up, prompting yet another huge sing-along.  Then there is just the final tune, and everyone knows what it’s going to be, the euphoric and cinematic behemoth that is ‘Comforting Sounds’. This song is even more powerful in person than on record, and I can’t think of many better live full stops than the perennial set-closer taken form perhaps their most beloved album ‘Frengers’. An apt ending to a fantastic show that really delivers for the fanatical following the band has built up over the years, and also impressive for those who haven’t experienced the Mew live machine before.

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