Published Dec 08, 2009Half a set's worth of material was ample evidence that Toronto-via-Oshawa transplants, the D'Urbervilles, have evolved to the point where their stage presence is confident enough to warm a crowd hungry for Danish art rock bliss. Front-man John O'Regan has the odd happenstance to physically resemble the forbidden love child of Steve Urkel and Vanilla Ice, while sounding as if the un-drug-ravaged ghost of Jim Morrison haunts his throat. Polished and road-tested, the keyboard-heavy foursome still lacked songs animated by the spark of greatness, but the audience responded favourably to their energetic set, however safe the sonic contents.
Keeping a tight schedule, Mew unleashed an opening barrage of progressive pop genius culled largely from their attention-grabbing 2005 LP, And the Glass Handed Kites. As if the otherworldly precision of their playing, bombastic song structures and galaxy-traversing sound weren't enough to completely mesmerize, Mew tightened their grip on the audience's rapt attention with a psychedelic display of surreal videos synched to the music. While dropping gems like "The Zookeeper's Boy" and "Special" with flawless professionalism, cosmic explosions of light illuminated the backdrop, flying animal puppets played violin and a demented teddy bear projected onto a screen behind guitarist Bo Madsen spoke digitally modulated words of comfort to the crowd.
As musically outlandish as they are, though, Mew knew how to construct an audience-friendly set list. With a few fan favourites out of the way, the band kicked into an extensive offering of material from their benchmark 2009 release, No More Stories. The crowd erupted into frenzied howling as the warped guitar riff and stuttering drums of "Introducing Palace Players" ramped up.
Throughout the set, vocalist Jonas Bjerre astonished with his pitch-perfect and theatrically powerfully vocal performance. All the more wowing, however, were the frequent and impeccable four-part harmonies, which came with help from Madsen and the talented touring members on bass and keys.
Climaxing with a searing, extended rendition of "Apocalypso," the band slowly trailed off in a cathartic wash of lights and ringing notes before returning for an epic encore. After thunderous applause waned, the band claimed they would try something they had never done live before, thus embarking upon a beautiful eight-minute journey of "Comforting Sound" from the nearly decade-old Half the World Is Watching Me.
In an alternate bubble of reality, one where artistry is as important as accessibility, Mew would be the world's biggest stadium rock act.