Doves / Mercury Rev Kool Haus, Toronto, ON - May 16, 2005

Let's get one major detail out of the way: the acoustics at this particular venue are horrible. Many fine pieces of intricacy get lost within its cavernous depths and the sound has the unfortunate tendency to get mashed together, with the band helpless to do anything about it. To the delight of what seemed at times to be half the crowd, Mercury Rev embraced this flaw and decided to throw out some magical moments of musical largeness. With front-man Jonathan Donahue madly conducting his band-mates in absurd flourishes and the accompanying bad acid trip visuals in the background, Mercury Rev may have been over the top, but they were charmingly so. From the muscular new "Secret for a Song" to a spectacularly heavy psych rock revamp of "Tides of the Moon," Mercury Rev set the bar very high. Luckily, though, Doves are no slouches when it comes to grand statements in overlapping sound. From the opening tribal drums of "Pounding" to the final Congo beat of "There Goes the Fear," Doves were a band in full control of their loving audience and somehow proved themselves three of the most unlikely rock stars you'll ever see. With a brilliant light show and strong, almost anthemic performances of new songs like "Black and White Town" and "Sky Starts Falling," Jimi Goodwin and his newly healed voice sounded more confident than ever. The two sonic powerhouses of Doves and Mercury Rev are actually very proper tour-mates, as they are blueprints in how a studio band can deliver the goods live. Not afraid to muck about and explore the more exciting elements of their songs, both courageously go for the big statements rather than sweet subtlety. And, hey, when you can still deliver sonic bliss in a pseudo-airplane hangar, who are we to split hairs?