Modest Mouse at O2 Academy, Newcastle on 9th July 2015

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I’m going to say I love Modest Mouse a lot in this review. I’ve been a fan for about 14 years, so I’m certainly not late to the game. I followed their music album by album, watched them develop into one of the most unique and brilliant bands on the planet. However, I also may say some things I’d never expected to say. All I can say at this point is I didn’t get the show I was expecting. Some things really upset me and left me emotional. For information purposes I bought tickets for this as soon as they came on pre-sale (yes with my own money from my own pocket. I was a real punter, albeit one with a photopass). Did this affect my opinion?

Here I try to dissect the show and my own reaction to it. Read on to find out more…

If you know me you know I love the Mouse. A band that have been with me since the early days of my musical education. My excitement for the show was undeniable, the gig was not a sellout but the diehard fans were there in numbers.

It was to be a special night. Isaac Brock (wearing a large marching band type hat, neckerchief, medals pinned on, painted blue nails, oh and a tail is clipped on to his back) was celebrating his 40th birthday. Party time!

They opened with one of my favourites, ‘Gravity Rides Everything’ from the monumental ‘Moon and Antartica.’ Then into ‘The Tortoise and the Tourist’ from the new album ‘Strangers to Ourselves’, with note bending sound Isaac has perfected over the years.

MM have been going for so long, nearly 30 years now, one thing they know is how to put on a crowd pleasing show with a great mix of songs spanning their career, they’re sure to please the majority of fans.

The fan favourite ‘Dashboard’ was brought out nice and early to get it out of the way. It’s a great song and the one they’re mostly known for, it got a great reaction from the crowd; bopping along, and singing word for word. ‘Lampshades on Fire’ pre-ceded it and in my book that tune is pure gold.

Something was not quite right though. I can only be honest and give my interpretation of a show I fully expected to be a contender for gig of the year. My excitement was starting to wane and my ears began to hurt. The sound from the photo-pit was great, moving back into the crowd and in earshot of the PA system I realised it would be a repeat of the horrible experience I’d had when last seeing the band live in 2010.  

The sound was terrible, all mids, bordering on feedback constantly. You couldn’t really pick out any instruments in the mix and drums were a muddy mess. Maybe the sheer amount of instruments onstage was too much? This was exactly like the last time I saw them. The sound was truly awful, someone ought to have checked the soundman for a pulse.

I decided I must be in a bad spot. So I repeated the exercise (as in 2010), trying different spots around the venue but with no success. This was like listening to your favourite band through a tin can on the end of a string.

On ‘Bukowski’ the guitar riffs sounded great, managing to cut through the mush. “Do Dashboard again!” one punter screamed repeatedly.

I am genuinely devastated to report that one of my favourite bands on the planet were let down, I don’t want to write a negative review, but the show sounded utterly dreadful. I couldn’t even make out the banter between songs.

I am perplexed at this situation. Bear in mind that I am a gig veteran and have already seen 195 bands this year alone, so I am confident that I know how a show should sound. In recent months I’ve raved about how much the sound has improved at the Academy. In fact just last week NOFX and Alkaline Trio sounded absolutely perfect. The recent Will Haven show too, which was one of the BEST sounding shows I’ve EVER heard. So I ponder what was amiss on this occasion. I think, I have to point the finger at the touring soundman. Perhaps they should take advice from the in-house engineers and that would help alleviate these kind of issues? I don’t know, perhaps the band want to sound like this?

Of course I considered that it might be me at fault. I was beginning to question my ears and my sanity. So as always I decided to canvas other opinions. I asked around, including some musician friends. The verdict was unanimous, it was terrible sound.

I can’t begin to describe what a crushing blow this is. The setlist was utterly perfect. How can a band that obsess with sound in the studio fail so badly in a live setting? I honestly can’t comprehend it. Sorry MM. I adore the music and I hope this is just a blip on the tour.

One a positive note the lighting was marvellous and we got some timeless shots. Here’s a few from the show.

Reviewer and Photographer: Graeme Baty

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