|Mercury Rev emphasized rhythm in its Paradise show.|
Rumors abounded of people actually being deafened by My Bloody Valentine's recent performance at New York's All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in September. For those who attended Friday's Mercury Rev show, hearing loss was less of an issue than blindness. It's likely that not a few people left the Paradise with a line of phosphenes seared across their field of vision, thanks to the retina-burning multicolored strobe lights that lined the back of the stage.
It seemed a perfectly appropriate touch by a band whose apparent aim was to overwhelm its audience by whatever means were at its disposal. Mercury Rev opened with "Snowflake in a Hot World," where the electronic expansiveness of prog dragged psychedelia into something not unlike the present day. It was cosmic in scope but visceral in its punch, all the way to a coda of free-form weightlessness.
And then the band did it again, and again after that. The trouble with wasting no time in overpowering the audience's senses is that it left Mercury Rev with close to nowhere else to go for the other 90 minutes. If "The Funny Bird," "Dream of a Young Girl as a Flower," and even a dramatically retooled cover of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" weren't exactly indistinguishable from one another, they all seemed to end up at the same place through the same means. Even when the band switched things up with "Spiders and Flies," an epic glam piano ballad crossed with the Flaming Lips, it was immediately followed by its seeming doppelganger "Opus 40."
But if there was redundancy, Mercury Rev kept things from floating off into the ether by emphasizing rhythm. Jason Miranda provided explosive machine-gun drums as Anthony Molina's probing bass carved its way through the songs, anchoring and driving the material simultaneously. "You're My Queen" eventually collapsed into a single chord from which the band never deviated, even after everyone popped back in at full force. And to close, there was the propulsive "Senses on Fire," all crash and boom and flash and roar, achieving exactly what the title promised one way or another.
Dean and Britta's opening set might have been briefer and come earlier than Mercury Rev, but they were afforded a degree of attention and adulation typically reserved for headliners. Like a David Lynch soundtrack stripped of its sinister undertones, they managed to maintain a hushed tone even when the volume picked up, as when bassist Britta Phillips wailed "Baby!" during the chorus of "You Turn My Head Around." Guitarist Dean Wareham, meanwhile, remained a winningly unassuming singer of the mold of old-school college rock that he helped establish with his old band Galaxie 500, whose T-shirt he shamelessly wore.