Danish alternative rock band Mew, hailing from Copenhagen retuned to San Francisco last week at the Fillmore Auditorium. It was their first time staging a headlining tour in the Americas in 6 years, supporting their new release +- (plus-minus). The venue was packed with an equal share of loyal fans and many newcomers, drawn to the band on the strength of the recent album. They opened the show with powerful new track “Witness” followed by “Satellites” the lead single from +-, a bit of breezy pop featuring shimmering keys, arpeggios on electric guitars, driving backbeat and soaring, ethereal lead vocals by Jonas Bjerre, the clear focal point of this acclaimed band. Sometimes when a group leads off with their top single it demonstrates a confidence in their set list, and this was the case with Mew, as they ran through six new songs, and ten from their prior releases, delivering an assured, magnificent concert.
Mew actually dates back to 1994, with six albums now in their catalog. The band for this tour includes Jonas Bjerre (vocals, keyboards), John Wohlert (bass, backing vocals), Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen (drums) and touring musicians Mads Wegner (guitars, replacing recently departed member Bo Madsen) and Nick Watts (keyboards). The band play relatively loud, rarely using dynamics to bring the sound down to highlight Bjerre’s amazing voice, in the way that for instance The National has done on their last tour. Also, for this tour, the band put some effort into some unique lighting and original video clips created by Bjerre. Unfortunately on this night at the Fillmore, these were not used, replaced instead by relatively simple back lighting. Nonetheless, these are minor quibbles, as the band was energetic, and in top form, driving their blend of proggy indie rock to stadium level dynamics, best exemplified by rocker “My Complications” from +-. A highlight in the setlist for this patron was the second single from that same album, “Water Slides” which has one of the catchiest choruses in recent memory:
For such a long time I didn’t know if I’d find you
Say stop, made up, lying on the bathroom floor
(ah ah ah ah ah ah ah)
This one put me in mind of dreamy 80’s artists Cocteau Twins, and some of their more accessible songs from Heaven Or Las Vegas. In fact, during a recent interview with vocalist Bjerre, he states that his parents listened to a lot of Eurythmics, Kate Bush, and other pop from the ‘80’s but that alterative-rock artists like Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and others stoked the flame and brought them together back in 1994. In addition to these bands, he says “all those ‘80s pop influences, and the sense of storytelling those bands had, kind of sneaked slowly into our sound.” It’s hard to classify Mew, not that it’s necessary, as fans modern rock of any type should check out their fantastic new album and if you can, their current tour.
By the way, The Dodos opened for Mew, delivering a blistering set that featured drummer Logan Kroeber’s unique style of playing. This talented percussionist uses almost no symbols, but plenty of precise, rolling toms, and lots of rim shots. Metric Long accompanies with lead vocals and guitar, favoring a frenetic finger picking style, and rapid-fire leads that are fitting to his name! Will definitely be checking out a headlining show from these creative indie rockers.