Live Review: Mew + Solkyri + Halcyon Drive – Manning Bar, Sydney (02.12.15)

It was the moment Australian fans of Mew had been waiting 20 years for. The Denmark four piece – who recently became a three piece with the departure of founding guitarist Bo Madsen in June, but tour as a five piece – finally arrived for their first ever tour in Australia. And spoiler alert: they did not disappoint.

Melbourne’s Halcyon Drive were first up and received a huge response from the early arriving punters. Sounding tighter than ever, this is a band who continue to prove themselves to be one of the country’s most exciting and promising groups. Following them up, instrumental outfit Solykri were a spellbinding support for the Danish group. The entire set had the crowd transfixed, and leaving the stage with plenty of hypnotic reverb, we were left wanting more. As solid a live instrumental experience as you’ll find. But as much as we enjoyed the opening acts, it was the main attraction the crowd were here to see.

This was a passionate crowd; notable for the fact there weren’t a million phones in the air for the entire set. This was a room full of fans who have waited some 20 years to see this group in Australia. They wanted to enjoy every moment – and many being fans for two decades, these were punters who remember what it was like to go to a show without a mobile in hand. And the whole atmosphere was better off for it.

The band emerged to deafening applause; kicking into “Witness”- the second track off their latest album – with Jonas immediately showing off his impeccable vocals. One thing was immediately apparent from the first note: even without Bo Madsen (which meant we were never to witness the original quartet), this was a show that was going to be well worth the wait.

Though a simple show from a production standpoint, the set enjoyed a solid light show, with projections scattered throughout, kicking off in their second track, their recent single “Satellites”. A huge cheer came from the crowd as they hit into an earlier favourite “Special” third. “The Zookeeper’s Boy”, one of their most popular songs, was a surprising early addition, with clouds, giraffes and singing animals in dresses projected  in the background with a superb light show. The crowd sung along to every word and Jonas needed to do little to win over anyone – he and the band had us in the palm of their hands. They made use of their sparingly – the odd singalong – such as when “The Zookeeper’s Boy” returned briefly during a three song medley with just Jonas on vocals and Nick Watts on keys – and they had us clapping here and there. But limited interaction took little away from the experience.

Highlights of the set included “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy”, “Snow Brigade” and “Rows”, off the new record. Coming in at over 10 minutes in length, the epic track – which becomes an incredible hymn like jam session – gives Sigur Ros a run for their money. In fact, I daresay the band do just that from start to finish. I thought “Rows” might end the main set (it certainly was suited for it), but they kicked on with the excellent “Am I Wry? No” and “156” before disappearing ahead of the encore. “Complications” and fan favourite (not to mention beautiful) “Comforting Sounds” then closed things out.

The Denmark five piece rock harder than you’d expect, and they sound as good – if not better – live than they do on record. Having been back on the road now for most of the year, you have to imagine they’re sounding as good as they ever have. Jonas’ voice remains from another planet. And judging by the response from the crowd, and the looks on their faces, they’re still enjoying it all too.

So, was the show worth the wait? Definitely. This will go down as one of the best shows of the year. But here’s hoping they don’t make us wait so long next time. 20 years is far too long…

SETLIST:
Witness
Satellites
Special
The Zookeeper’s Boy
Introducing Palace Players
Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy
Water Slides
Snow Brigade
She Spider
Keyboard Medley: Clinging to a Bad Dream / The Zookeeper’s Boy (Reprise) / Louise Louisa
Making Friends
Rows
Am I Wry? No
156
Encore:
My Complications
Comforting Sounds

Mew finish up their tour tonight at Max Watt’s in Brisbane. For tickets and details head here: maxwatts.com.au/brisbane

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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