Modest Mouse at the Pageant, November 14

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I fear that I'm really not qualified to review this Modest Marr Mouse show, since I'm the sort of fan long-time Modest Marr Mouse fans despise. I love this year's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, not just for the songwriting, but also because expert ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr is now in the band. Before this, I never really paid attention to the group -- save for liking a song found on Six Feet Under -- before "Float On" and "Ocean Breathes Salty" hit from Good News for People Who Love Bad News. In fact, I dug Modest Marr Mouse more through Sun Kil Moon's covers LP, Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, since I'm a huge Mark Kozelek freak. In short, I'm totally a bandwagon-jumper from when the band hit the commercial mainstream.

But I'm not ashamed. Just being up-front.

So I don't have a setlist or anything from last night's show -- although I'm dying to know it, so please post if you find it -- but I do know that the nearly two-hour concert was fantastic. It exceeded any expectations I had. With six (and sometimes seven -- or in the case of an encore song, more) people onstage, the show was loud and shambling, and mixed chaotically. But somehow this completely worked -- and the band still ended any jams en pointe, which shows that it's great at reigning in its chaos.

At stage right, sneaker-wearing Johnny Marr made it look easy as a guitarist and back-up singer, sometimes pointing his finger in the air with enthusiasm, but often just focusing on bashing out piercing riffs. And Isaac Brock -- wearing black Converse and jeans rolled up to the tops of the kicks -- mumbled, lurched and growled his way through lyrics (a rare post-song discussion with the crowd was similarly muddled; did he have marbles in his mouth? Or was the sound that muddy?), albeit there were no theatrical performance freakouts or anything.

But the true stars of Modest Marr Mouse are its two (2) drummers. They looked like mirror images of each other, pounding out rhythms in unison with precision and volume. They were actually more riveting than the rest of the band -- if not louder, but extremely impressive.

Setlist-wise, I do know Modest Marr Mouse played "Dashboard" and "We've Got Everything," along with "Fire It Up" and the song about being in a coffin (I'm sorry, the name escapes me). And that several extended jams occurred, that sometimes contained echoes of power-pop (one reminded me of Matthew Sweet) or hippie-rock, without being remotely jam-band or classic rock.

Overall, though, it was fantastic. Color me impressed, and dying to see them again.

-- Annie Zaleski

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