Mercury Rev, Wedgewood Rooms, review: ‘It didn’t make me want to rush home to dig out my Mercury Rev records’

Mercury Rev were at the Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea.
Mercury Rev were at the Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea.

The live celebration of landmark albums seems to be an ever-increasing trend.

Mercury Rev are rightfully proud of their commercial and arguably creative pinnacle, Deserter’s Songs, marking its 20th anniversary. Lavishly produced, the record was released to critical acclaim in the UK and to a lesser extent at home in America. Its reputation drew a large and devoted crowd to The Wedgewood Rooms on Sunday night.

The concise set was full of surprises, from an acoustic re-working of the album to large sections of conversational oral history.

Vocalist Jonathan Donahue seemed humbled by the power of the songs and their transformative effects on the band’s fortunes. His recollections of three previous visits to the Wedgewood Rooms alongside recounting the bare-bones genesis of these compositions added a depth of intimacy the songs couldn’t carry on their own. Donahue and bandmate Grasshopper playing as a duo, did allow some of the more lavish instrumentation to creep in, culminating in the garage-rock that tinged the performances of ‘Opus 40’ and ‘The Dark Is Rising’. Ultimately this felt like a heartfelt thank-you to their fans rather than a re-introduction to the album itself.

Enjoyable, but with the solo support of Nicole Atkins nearly stealing the show, it didn’t make me want to rush home to dig out my Mercury Rev records. JIM PUSEY