Mercury Rev @ The Junction, Cambridge

There's an insular magic about Mercury Rev tonight, as if this gig is nothing more than a garage rehearsal and there's not really several hundred people present. Set opener, Neil Young's "Cortez" determines the pattern for the rest of the night, the band face inwards, feeding off one another and generating an immense and sweeping intensity. Jonathan Donahue darts to the mic to deliver a perfect facsimile of Young's alto croak before turning back inside, immersing himself in the flowing chords and surging energy. It's almost painful when the song stops and we fast-forward several centuries, shattered but exhilarated by the sheer rush. Reference points duly noted, the Rev proceed through a set dominated by the new LP "Deserter's songs" which, although beautiful and beautifully constructed panoramic pop, doesn't manage to reach the opening heights until an initially lumpen version of the classic "Carwash hair" evolves into an elongated workout, the Spiritualised comparisons become transparent and a higher force descends over stage. Were they more emotive folks, there'd surely be six dervishes up there but instead the band draw themselves further in and suck us with them, a whirlpool of slash and drone chordage, tiny melody fragments and an overwhelming sense of majesty. Exhausting and disorientating, seeing Mercury Rev live is like being dragged through a hedge backwards. Backwards.
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