Danish alternative-art-prog rock band Mew thrilled a full audience with wonderful, arty soundscapes and beautiful lighting at the chandelier-filled San Francisco Fillmore on Saturday, September 26th. The band’s lush combination of sounds, distinct vocals, guitar and layered keyboards over heavy bass and drums, was performed just a bit jazzier and looser than recorded song versions.
Jonas Bjerre’s singing was powerful as he performed extremely flowing to extremely enunciated lyrics and long, sustained notes through Shins-esque melody lines in a nearly unbelievable mid tenor to high falsetto range. He was very casual, standing still, leaning back into notes or singing with one foot forward. For at least two songs, he turned the mic toward the audience so they could sing on the songs they knew, which they did quite well.
Johan Wohlert was the band’s cheerleader, prompting the audience to clap along, addressing them from time to time, and bowing towards them with both hands up. His bass lines consisted of funky, bouncy, prog-rock chord progressions. He dedicated “Am I Wry? No” to his grandmother who lived in San Francisco in the 1950s and also mentioned that he used to skateboard in town and was planning to do so this time. The energetic bassist bobbed and swung around, his highly placed man-bun ponytail bouncing right along with him as he played the front of the stage or face to face with drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen, new guitarist Mads Wegner, or touring keyboardist Nick Watts. Additionally, he sang backup vocals.
Wegner’s guitar work was lyrical and tight, with the occasional angular accent note, and stayed very close to original guitarist Bo Madsen’s compositions as he danced and swung his guitar around. Watts’s keyboards brought life to the orchestral arpeggios organ sounds and jazzy piano arrangements as he gently swayed and sang backup. Drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen played splashy cymbals and bright drumbeats steadily, keeping the rhythm heavy throughout the set. The entire band was extremely musically talented, and showed diversity, with keyboardist Watts on rhythm guitar for a song, bassist Wohlert on extra keys for a song, and singer Bjerre on guitar for the last three to four songs.
Mew’s set list included three new singles from the +- album (QRO review), “Satellites,” “Water Slides,” and “Witness” as well as hits of their 20 years together, “Special,” “Zookeeper’s Boy,” “Introducing Palace Players” (a prog masterpiece), “Snow Brigade,” with “Am I Wry? No,” and “156” in the encore. The finale was the dramatic “Comforting Sounds” which started on guitar and vocals, then added in orchestral string sounds on keyboard before the rhythm section kicked in to make it truly epic.