Modest Mouse have a rather strange place in the pantheon of music, especially on these shores. They are critically acclaimed, commercially ignored but seemingly adored by their fan base if tonight’s reaction is anything to go by. The band, from Washington, have been peddling their trademark multi-instrumental indie rock since 1996 and over time they have created a memorable, pulsating live show, during which lead singer and talisman Isaac Brock is the focal point to channel all this energy.
Opening with ‘Shit In Your Cut’ from this years impressive Strangers to Ourselves album, the band quickly demonstrate that Brock and his ensemble will easily fill with noise this quaint all seated auditorium in Birmingham’s cultural district of Digbeth. In fact, as the set progresses, including early favourite ‘Dramamine’, the wall of sound is remarkable. The small stage is weighed down by an army of musicians and a glut of instruments including two full drum kits, a double bass and a seemingly endless supply of guitars. But rather than appearing haphazard there is a wonderful choreography at play.
The crowd have incredibly already created a mosh pit in the front three rows of seats when ‘Lampshades On Fire’ and ‘Dashboard’ send them over the edge. Modest Mouse are eclectic and considered on their recorded work, but this is a full on rock and roll show. In a flurry of explosive guitar and a whirlwind of pedal switches by the impressively proficient Brock accompanying crashing percussions the effect is almost euphoric. This is a well honed and enthusiastic performance by a reliable band with a wealth of material.
The supporting cast do their job supporting the extraordinary growling, passionate vocal performance of Brock with vim and purpose. This is demonstrated never more than on ‘The Tortoise And The Tourist’. While the noise is punctuated by more mellow moments on ‘Bukowski’ and the disco-rock ‘Doin’ The Cockroach,’ the reaction is palpable when the band revert to there heavy and heady best, finishing with a flourish by playing the brilliant ‘The Good Times Are Killing Me’.
Isaac Brook has a spikey reputation but tonight there is no sign of any disinterest or irritability and he seems to enjoy the relationship with a boisterous crowd, who respond well to the songs and their singer throughout the night. It’s a strange thing to see so much collective energy emanate from a single source, but tonight Brock is absolutely on his game and there is no doubting who pulls the strings in this most absorbing of shows.
Already this would have been a memorable live experience but after a short break the band return to play breakthrough hit ‘Float On’ and current favourite ‘The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box. This finish is enough to send the Sunday night crowd home happy, and ensure a warm welcome to this fascinating band when next in the second city.
James Van Praag