Concert Review: Modest Mouse plays on, then off, then on again
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Modest Mouse and Pittsburgh have never been a good match, and things got a little stranger Friday night.
First a little background: It was one of the weirder moments in the weird history of indie-rock when Modest Mouse topped the album charts with "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank."
The onetime lo-fi/noise-rock band from Washington state had it going on, with a catchy single in "Dashboard" and the Smiths' Johnny Marr temporarily in the fold. That was 2007, and rather than striking again while the iron was hot, there's not even a title being thrown about yet for the next album.
But this summer the band has booked a mere seven-city tour that had to be moved from inside to the bigger, 5.500-capacity Stage AE Outdoors, where it sold out Friday night. Not surprising there would be a demand, as Modest Mouse is a rare sight here.
It's only played inside the city limits once -- around 1996 at the Oakland Beehive. Frontman Isaac Brock showed up way late at Club Laga in '97, nixing that show. In 2004, his plane from Cleveland was delayed, getting him to the Rostraver Ice Garden in time to play for a half-hour. It took them four more years to get back to Rostraver and make good on that.
That's been it, so it was almost a surprise to get a proper Modest Mouse show at a high quality venue. The band hit the stage around 9 p.m. in soft acoustic mode, shuffling through "Gravity Rides Everything" before quickly lurching into the Pixie-ish screamer "Bury Me With It," hinting that the Mouse could roar.
Modest Mouse, six strong with double drummers, had some noisy fun with its surreal material, from the hard-edged "Satin in a Coffin," sans banjo, to the joyful punk-funk of "Dashboard" and "Education."
"Custom Concern" wooed us in with a dreamy groove as did the slow, spooky new song "Ansel," while "[S---] Luck" blew us back with a burst of frantic energy, from stabbing guitars and staccato barks.
After 13 songs and just over an hour, the ever-unpredictable Mr. Brock abruptly thanked the crowd (after mentioning something about the college baseball score) and walked off with the band, leaving behind annoying white noise of chirping sounds and a confused crowd.
Tick, tick, tick ... The band returned 15 minutes later -- way too long for an encore break -- with the new song "Poison the Well" and fan favorite "Fire It Up" before torching the stage with "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes."
Then it surged through "Dancehall" and settled into a droning cover of Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" that turned out be the anticlimactic closer. He muttered something about someone losing their temporary drivers license and then he was gone. Without even doing "Float On."
A strange finish to a puzzling show.
First Published June 23, 2012 12:00 am