Modest Mouse @ MTelus

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Modest Mouse in Montreal

Modest Mouse are one of those bands that I always thought were “pretty good.”  I was never in love with them, but I’ve heard so many songs down through the years that were “pretty good,” surely that warrants investigation when they come to town, and they remain a gaping hole in my bands-I-should-see-before-I-die list?!  At the very least, their live show should be “pretty good” too?!

Another driving factor towards coming out tonight is the fact that Hooray For Earth are opening, a band who I haven’t seen in probably 10 years, and had no idea they were even still together.  Well, “still together” is perhaps the wrong expression; what was previously a 4-piece (I think) is now just 1 guy, who I assume is Noel Heroux, who founded the band back in 2005.  He’s quite literally a 1-man band, sat at a drum kit with a guitar hanging off his back and an effects box beside him, off to the side of the stage, dwarfed by the headliners’ stage setup.

Musically, it’s a totally different experience from how I remember too.  The alternative guitar rock is replaced by atmospheric electronica and distortion, feeling almost a little improv at times, as Noel chops up spooky drumbeats and echo vocals to radiate Sci-Fi soundtrack vibes around MTelus.  He wraps up the set with a new song which he just finished recording, and which he promises “is gonna be bananas”; starting with an explosion of drums and ending with an ethereal climactic organ, he’s not wrong!

Modest Mouse arrive on stage and hit the ground running, kicking off with The World At Large, igniting the first of many singalongs tonight, and sounds both simmering and triumphant at the same time as frontman Isaac Brock spits rhymes.  Missed The Boat arrives a couple of songs later to an equally huge response.

As the show progresses, I realize that the Modest Mouse live experience is a lot more diverse than I had anticipated, based on their more popular songs throughout the years.  F*** Your Acid Trip is a moody churner, Styrofoam Boots feels like a bluegrass hoedown, whilst The Tortoise and the Tourist is just outright thunderous, with Isaac almost busting a blood vessel or two as the stage lights beat down.  Even the encore is a microcosm of this diversity, with the cabaret Sugar Boats melting into the stadium anthems of Custom Concern, before wrapping up the whole show with a pummelling Spitting Venom.  The set unearths a few surprises too; King Rat was new to me, but sounds absolutely epic, and will absolutely be investigated after the show.  Kudos also to the guy in the crowd who updates the setlist on Setlist.fm in real-time, so that I can track each song as it comes!

The other big surprise of the night is how crazy the crowd gets!  And how long they get crazy for!  Things rumble to life around halfway through, during Bukowski, and by the end of the next song, things have descended into a full-on circle pit.  And it kinda stays that way for the duration of the set, as the surge continues through Japanese Trees and the timeless Float On.  By the time the main set closes out with The Good Times Are Killing Me, the clamour for the fence becomes so fierce in places that two girls in front of me are physically shoving each other for that spot as if this was a Y2K emo show.  It’s an intense 2 hours for sure, but unquestionably exceeds expectations; certainly a lot better than “pretty good!”

Setlist

  1. The World at Large
  2. Fuck Your Acid Trip
  3. Missed the Boat
  4. Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright
  5. Night on the Sun
  6. Never Fuck a Spider on the Fly
  7. Trailer Trash
  8. The Tortoise and the Tourist
  9. Bukowski
  10. King Rat
  11. Perfect Disguise
  12. Japanese Trees
  13. Float On
  14. Cowboy Dan
  15. We Are Between
  16. We’re Lucky
  17. The Good Times Are Killing Me

Encore

  1. 3rd Planet
  2. Wooden Soldiers
  3. Sugar Boats
  4. Custom Concern
  5. Spitting Venom

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Kieron Yates

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