The threat of ice and snow didn’t deter Portlanders from the chance to see Mew in an intimate setting at the Hawthorne Theatre on Saturday, December 12th. Denmark’s biggest export brought their even bigger sound and visual wonders to support what is perhaps the longest album title known to man, No More Stories/Are Told Today/I’m Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I’m Tired/Let’s Wash Away (QRO review).
Sometimes categorized as ‘indie prog-rock’, the band chose to open with "Hawaii" one of the most prog-rock tracks on the new album and not particularly the best choice to warm up the crowd. However, by the third song the crowd and the band seemed to have found their groove. Mew’s sound is a veritable force, while lead singer Jonas Bjerre comes across as rather shy at times with his falsetto vocals. "Introducing Palace Players" with it’s off-beat infectious funkiness make it nearly impossible for even the most hardened hipster to stand still no matter how hard they try, and the live version was a definite hit. Mew also dipped into their older catalogue playing a few tracks from both their And the Glass Handed Kites and Frengers albums.
Adding to the live experience were the accompanying visuals (many of which were created by Jonas, who is also a visual artist), via the giant projector that was on the verge of toppling into the crowd, save for the crewmember who had to hold it steady throughout the night. The most unique visual of all was a giant animated talking bear (during the brand new track "Bamse", Danish for ‘bear’) which was so life-like it brought to mind the animatronics found at Chuck E. Cheese, yet it was ultimately fresh and dazzling.
Toward the end of the evening guitar player Bo Madsen suddenly chatted up the crowd, thanking them for electing President Obama and he expressed his distaste for the prior eight years of leadership in our country. It was an unexpected moment that elicited many cheers from the crowd.
Mew playing "Apocalypso" and "Bamse" live @ Hawthorne Theatre in Portland, OR on December 12th, 2009:
It’s easy to imagine Mew playing sold out stadium crowds back home, having cleaned up at the 2006 Danish Music Awards, taking away a total of four prizes. The visual aspect of the show meshed with the sheer power of the music created a live show that is quite unlike any normally seen in a small venue, and shouldn’t be missed even if inclement weather looms.