Show Review: Guided by Voices @ Paradise Rock Club 7.11.16

by Terence Cawley (Biology), published July 13th 2016

photos by Ben Stas (English/Journalism)

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In many ways, the 2016 Guided by Voices reunion hardly counts as a reunion at all. The iconic lo-fi/indie group only broke up for two years, frontman Robert Pollard wrote and played every note on the new album, Please Be Honest, and only one of Pollard’s bandmates has ever played in GBV before. Perhaps Pollard’s desire to prove the legitimacy of GBV’s latest incarnation is what pushed him to give the longest, most spirited concert he could deliver.

Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes opened the evening with a hearty helping of indie rock. The band’s songs tended to settle into loose, jangly grooves reminiscent of The Velvet Underground at their most mellow, and the fact that Nigel Chapman’s voice bore an uncanny resemblance to Lou Reed only made the comparison more inevitable. Most of the credit for lifting Nap Eyes’ set above mere VU cosplay belongs to lead guitarist Brad Loughead, whose feedback-laden outro solos would have made Ira Kaplan raise an eyebrow in approval. The young group’s thoughtful lyricism and memorable melodies also helped them win over the audience.

Fifty songs! Guided by Voices played 50 songs! In a row! That’s a solid two hours and 45 minutes of rock ‘n’ roll, a positively Springsteenian feat of endurance. Of those 50 songs, a whopping 21 came from Pollard side projects, highlighting solo work and bands both active (Ricked Wicky) and disbanded (Boston Spaceships). The setlist’s emphasis on Pollard’s extracurricular activities felt like a pointed reminder that this version of GBV, more than any past version, is The Robert Pollard Show in all but name. Thankfully, Pollard is one of the few people in indie rock worthy of a one-man show. Back in the ‘90s, his onstage hijinks- the mic twirls, the Jagger pouts, the signature high kick- must have seemed like some kind of elaborate joke. Now they just seem like what a rock star like Pollard is supposed to do. Even better were Pollard’s between-song wisecracks: this is a man, after all, whose Miller Lite and Jose Cuervo-fueled quips are so entertaining that he once released a whole album of them. This evening’s quotables included “Fuck Robert Plant! If I was the singer of Led Zeppelin, they would’ve been a better band!” and, after a triumphant performance of “Game of Pricks,” “If Badfinger had done that song, it would have been a hit!”

The main quality differentiating live GBV from studio GBV is volume. This band’s shows are LOUD. Guitarists Bobby Bare and Nick Mitchell hammered every riff with AC/DC heaviosity, and while the aural pummeling was invigorating at first, it soon proved exhausting, then kind of painful- remember, these guys played for 2:45. The monotonous hard rock arrangements also turned the middle of the set, which was overstuffed with songs from side projects and Please Be Honest, into a bit of a slog. Just when Pollard and company seemed in danger of losing all but the most diehard fans, they gained a second wind so powerful it defied belief. After a closing run which got the crowd jumping with the power-pop jewels “Glad Girls” and “I Am a Scientist” came a rapturously received encore of three songs from GBV’s twin classics, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. That would have been a grand enough finale, but the people hungered for more, and so the band returned for a second three-song encore. The 50th and final song the band played, “Baba O’Reilly” by Pollard’s beloved Who, turned into a singalong of heroic proportions and ensured that everyone left the Paradise that night riding high on a wave of rock-induced euphoria.

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