Posted in music on November 8, 2010
words by Chris Gersbeck
Guided By Voices at Terminal 5 (photo by Schnappy Star)
Well that was certainly a show I'll never forget. As any hardcore Guided By Voices fan will tell you, the short period from 1993-96 when Robert Pollard's long-running titular band released Propeller, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes and Under The Bushes, Under The Stars is regarded as their shining moment. So an entire tour revolving around those albums, classic lineup intact, is pretty much the greatest thing ever. Needless to say, everyone at Terminal 5 last night was ecstatic.
Sub Pop's Blitzen Trapper opened the show at 8pm with their set of twangy indie folk-rock. The six-member Portland, Oregon based group sounded as happy to be there as anyone, noting that their tour with GBV has been amazing, and they were clearly a well-rehearsed and talented act. Playing to an already packed crowd of anxious fans may not get you an uproarious response, but the band kept it short and was finished by 8:35pm. And so the GBV chanting began...
Pollard and co. kept us waiting until 9:20pm, when suddenly all the lights went out and a collage of random talk-radio recordings went on for what seemed forever, sometimes repeating "guided by voices", which incited mass cheering. At long last, the neon sign stating "The Club Is Open" lit up and the cigarette-toking, tequila and beer-swilling Guided By Voices took the stage.
The band wasted no time hitting the classics, opening with "Tractor Rape Chain", "Game of Pricks" and "I Am A Scientist". But let's face it, all of their songs are classics. The vibrant crowd sang along throughout most of the performance, quite a few singing along to every lyric of every track. And let me say that if you haven't sung "A Salty Salute" along with 3,000 other Guided By Voices fans, it's pretty fucking fun. Guitarist Mitch Mitchell was never without a lit cigarette in his mouth, and bassist Greg Demos made motions like the rock stars they arguably never actually were. Hearing Kevin Fennell's drums in such fidelity, especially on songs like "My Valuable Hunting Knife" and "A Good Flying Bird" where full drums were missing from the lo-fi recordings, breathed new life into the band's prolific catalog.
Notable mention must also go to Tobin Sprout, whose contribution to this material has always been highly regarded. His and Pollard's vocal harmonies on "Awful Bliss" and "14 Cheerleader Coldfront" were absolutely pitch-perfect, even more reminiscent of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey than ever before. Pollard's microphone twirling and high kicks do even more to perpetuate the comparison to the Who, and I've personally always thought of GBV as the band the Who could've been had they recorded solely on 4-track cassette and not achieved such success. But I digress. It really was great to see Sprout back on stage with this band.
As Pollard chugged from his bottle of tequila throughout the night, coming back for three encores, he never once sounded off key or tired, or hell, even intoxicated, despite practically being carried off the stage at the end. Would I have liked to have heard later songs like "I Am A Tree" or "Glad Girls"? Maybe. But that's not what this tour is about. In Pollard's own words towards the end of the show, after Under the Bushes, Under the Stars, "everything sort of went downhill." Though that is debatable (didn't Bob once say that GBV hadn't even peaked yet around 2003?), one thing is clear: the band that played last night is without a doubt the definitive Guided By Voices. And if you're questioning whether it's worth trying to get into to the New Year's Eve show at Irving Plaza, all I can say is that if last night was any indication, you are really missing out if you don't.
Pictures are coming later. Check out the setlist and a video below...
Guided by Voices performing "Game of Pricks" at Terminal 5
Guided by Voices Concert at Terminal 5, New York, NY, USA
Setlist on November 7, 201
Tractor Rape Chain
Game of Pricks
I Am A Scientist
Shocker in Gloomtown
The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory
Gold Star for Robot Boy
My Valuable Hunting Knife
A Good Flying Bird
Matter Eater Lad
Watch Me Jumpstart
Striped White Jets
My Impression Now
14 Cheerleader Coldfront
Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
Closer You Are
Gleemer (The Deeds of Fertile Jim)
Quality of Armor
Queen of Cans and Jars
Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy
A Salty Salute
Smothered in Hugs
Bright Paper Werewolves
Some Drilling Implied
Dodging Invisible Rays
My Son Cool
Don't Stop Now