Mazzy Star at Mill City Nights, 11/12/13
This is not a photograph from last night. There was no photography allowed.
via Mazzy Star's Facebook
with Psychic Ills
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
A video that could have been anything from found footage to a clip from a Dario Argento film was projected on the back wall at Mill City Nights on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Mazzy Star, the leading purveyors of psychedelia-dusted dream pop in the 1990s, assembled themselves on stage for 80 minutes that was at turns both powerful and puzzling. While the band has lost nothing in the way of direction or songcraft -- the latter of which is, and always has been, fairly fantastic -- the song choices and their placement made things a bit clunky at times.
With a 17-year gap in recorded material -- this year's Seasons of Your Day was the first since 1996's Among My Swan -- it could stand to reason that the band would have some significant rust. They got things going without even so much as a tiny hiccup with "Look on Down from the Bridge" and "Cry, Cry," which served to quiet the fairly noisy room. The band commanded attention with singer Hope Sandoval's languid, hypnotizing voice and guitarist David Roback's spare, ethereal guitar work. "In the Kingdom" from the new release shushed anyone oblivious enough to still be conversing and with that, the crowd was in rapt attention. Sadly, it couldn't last for the entire night.
The transitions from song to song began to undermine the show's potential for greatness as the middle of the set approached. If you were to put a show on a graph (and to be fair, you probably shouldn't) it should resemble a bell curve with regard to intensity and overall energy level. However, Tuesday's show would have had a jagged, wildly fluctuating path. The transitions started to make less and less sense -- the switch from a soul-melting version "She Hangs Brightly" to what shook out to be a just an ok version of "Fade Into You" the night's foremost example -- and the waters started to muddy a bit.
The night's main set wrapped up with a phenomenal version of "Blue Flower" and "Disappear," though once again the pairing highlighted the transition problem that plagued the set's second half. Though the first half was stronger than expected -- which is to say it was essentially note-perfect -- the band lost the plot a bit as the show progressed. The encore did nothing to repair it, it only managed to further confuse things.
The band had taken a several-minute break and came back out to much cheering as they offered "California" in all of it's hazy, sunny glory. They chose "So Tonight That I Might See," the title track to their 1993 breakthrough, as the closer, however, and it proved to be a large misstep.
The show had been running pretty tightly (though exceptionally oddly paced) up until then and the extended, ten-plus minute version of "So Tonight" nearly unraveled everything they had built over the course of the night in one fell swoop of cacophonous dissonance. It was clear this would be the night's closer and people started heading for the door early. Sure, it was Tuesday, but sometimes a show is over a few minutes before it's actually over, if you follow.
Look on Down from the Bridge
In the Kingdom
Lay Myself Down
Ride It On
Does Someone Have Your Baby Now?
She Hangs Brightly
Fade Into You
So Tonight That I Might See
Critic's Bias: I loved Mazzy Star when they first arrived. I thought they made me seem well-rounded as a teenager who listened mostly to grunge and they had genuinely great songs that made feelings well up inside me that I had never really experienced before. I still think those things and at several points on Tuesday, I wondered exactly when and why I stopped listening to them on a regular basis.
The Crowd: Not with flow charts, Venn diagrams and the aid of both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking could I pinpoint a common or even tangential type of person who was there on Tuesday.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Hey, stranger, what's up? Can I suck on this?" Which was presumably in reference to a beer but I didn't hear the beginning of the conversation and it was the funniest thing I've heard in about three weeks.
Random Tidbit: I like Mill City Nights a bit more each time I go there. It's far from perfect and far from my favorite venue but it's growing on me in tiny degrees.
Sorry, no Mazzy photos allowed.
Photo by Erik Hess
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