For two and a half hours, Guided By Voices was the greatest rock and roll band on earth. Robert Pollard and the boys literally tore into the songs, barely giving the audience time to come down from the previous song’s high. (“It’s another busy day for the cut-out witch 1-2-3-4!”) The band was in particularly fine form, racing through chord changes on a dime, with Pollard doing his deadly sincere rockstar moves (the Mick Jagger pout, the mic cord twirls, and early on in the show when he was a little more sober, a couple of David Lee Roth high-kicks). (“This is arena rock… in a bar!”) By his sixth Miller Lite or so — you could tell because he would toss and spin ’em in the air and catch them before twisting off the cap — he was hollering, “If I’m outta beer, I’m outta here,” to which the audience obligingly responded by sending bottles of Bud to the front.
Most of the material was from the brand spankin’ new album Earthquake Glue, but that didn’t stop the jumping, dancing, flailing crowd from bobbing their heads along. And laughing too. Pollard at some point was staring at “his friend,” a cricket on the floor (I think it was a moth), which inspired a riff on Buddy Holly. (This wasn’t nearly as headshakingly absurd and hilarious as his comments that we were living “in paranoid times, boys and girls,” and that Saddam Hussein could be anywhere or look like anyone. “Saddam Hussein could look like Lou Reed. Saddam Hussein is Lou Reed.”)
The 30-minute encore — after 2 hours of nonstop playing plus a 5 minute break — was simply pure, crowd-frenzy joy. (It was after I found myself singing along with the diehards up front to the “For Chrissakes, Charlie” intro to “Skin Parade” that I realized what a GBV geek I’d become.) The band laid down the songs, one after the other: “Christian Animation Torch Carriers,” “Echos Myron,” “Glad Girls,” “Tractor Rape Chain,” “Teenage FBI,” “Hot Freaks,” “Everywhere with Helicopters,” “I Am A Scientist,” “Motor Away”… with the crowd up front yelling out the lyrics. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun at a concert in a while. (And to the woman in the middle near the front in the sleeveless black blouse and the cat’s-eye glasses, waving her arms in the air: thank you for being so enthusiastic. It was infectious.)
(This is turning out to be a great year for concerts for me: the Vetiver / Devendra Banhart / The Angels of Light concert at the Bottom of the Hill, the once-in-a-lifetime Current 93 concert at the Great American Music Hall, and now this…)