Friday, November 15, 2013

Live Review: Mazzy Star at The Vic, Chicago 2013

Mazzy Star | Psychic Ills 

The Vic - Chicago, IL
November 13, 2013

With exception to the Pumpkins, Mazzy Star was the first non-metal band with whom I became absolutely obsessed. I first heard them shortly after my birthday in 1990 while wandering around Tower Records. Hope Sandoval's vocals were arresting, and the fuzzed out guitars were both psychedelic and stark. Everything clicked, I bought the album and needed to find out everything possible about this band. But unlike many bands, they were incredibly elusive. It was hard to obsess over anything about them beyond the music. And that's probably how they preferred it.

As luck would have it, they were coming to Chicago in about a month. But the show was 21 and over. Fuck.

I'd be forced to wait until 1994 to see the band, first headlining, and then opening for The Jesus and Mary Chain during a three night stand at Metro. I'll save my memories of those shows for another day.

Fast forward to 2013, and with the band touring in support of their new album Seasons of Your Day, I anticipated this show more than any other all year.We made the short, cold walk to The Vic and quickly looked at merch, grabbed a drink, hit coat check, and made our way towards the front. It would be disingenuous to say anything about openers The Psychic Ills other than they were mostly forgettable.

The crew prepared the stage for Mazzy Star's first show in Chicago since '96, and the floor and balcony were now packed. The crowd was also loud, and I began to worry about the delicate dynamic that is the relationship between this band and their fans. I've never witnessed a bad crowd at a Mazzy Star show, but I've certainly heard about many of them. Especially on this tour. The music this band plays is so ethereal and intimate that it demands near silence. Those who claim it's boring and that they could just sit at home and listen to their iPod simply don't get it.

Performing in shadows, candles on stage and sepia toned photos projected on screen, Mazzy Star set about intoxicating the audience. The drug of choice, of course, was Hope Sandoval, whose whispery and sultry vocals wash over the crowd in ways no other vocalist can come close to replicating. The effect is hypnotic and mesmerizing. Much has been made of Hope's incredible shyness off and on stage, and that vulnerability adds to the appeal. She always appears to be unsure of herself, but her slight movements, gestures, and facial expressions on stage lull you into complete submission.

It's almost impossible to articulate the live experience that is Mazzy Star, but it was immediately evident why I fell in love with this band so many years ago. And that experience was made even better by the fact they haven't lost a step in their performance. Hope still looks and sounds amazing; it's impossible to tell that so much time has passed since the band last performed together. And that's what really made this night memorable: the band was so locked in, everything came off flawlessly. I love Hope's solo work, but something magical happens when she and David Roback's trippy guitar get together.

The crowd was mostly respectful and quiet, except for one drunk douche behind me who yelled out "I have the biggest boner" after the first song. This was met with boos and jeers, but he continued to scream things like "I love you Hope!" I worried that we'd get the set cut short, and began to contemplate the likelihood of turning around, dropping this kid, and go unnoticed. I then envisioned being kicked out in my valiant attempt to make the show more enjoyable, and thankfully, he eventually got quiet. And thankfully, Hope didn't hear him or ignored him.

Speaking of Hope, it was the most I've heard her talk between songs - ever. Granted, this was limited to telling a girl she loved her too, and softly saying "thank you" three times. Backstage at The Vic is actually downstairs, and after the second encore, she said "if I have to walk up those stairs one more time.." And she was smiling. I'd chalk this up to the wine she drank during the set, but Hope always has red wine during a set. I'd like to think she actually enjoyed herself, and considering the length of the set compared to every other city except Toronto, I think it's a fair assumption. It was a great way to cap off an incredible evening.

The highlight of the show, however, was "Into Dust." The song has captivated me since the first moment I heard it, and thousands of listens later, it still has the same effect. That effect is magnified a thousand times when it's being performed a few feet in front of you. Nobody in the crowd said a word during the set's most quiet song, as Hope and David paralyzed the audience. It was incredible. I remember thinking it was one of the most moving live songs I had ever witnessed back in 1994, and it still holds true in 2013. Hope's voice shatters me every time. I go to live shows to be moved by the performance, and maybe I'm becoming jaded but those performances are becoming more and more rare. Tonight with Mazzy Star wasn't just moving, it was like an out-of-body-experience.

Welcome back, Mazzy Star. Hopefully it won't be another 17 years until we meet again.

No comments:

Post a Comment