Fifty three songs. 53! For any bands outside the patchouli-hazed jam world, it would take years if not decades to play that many different songs live, given the rigid set lists of most touring bands. Guided By Voices has no such issue. Granted, leader Robert Pollard has been cranking out full-length records at a pace likely never equaled or to be equaled; in the six years since Pollard resuscitated the GBV brand name, there have been ten full-length LPs and an astonishing seventeen more under various names and side projects. Ladies and gentlemen, the busiest man in rock music. Years ago, Pollard famously quipped that he write five songs while taking a shit, and three of them would be good. Clearly, the man is not constipated.
Pollard and company have always had a good draw in Boston, and even on a decidedly non-rock and roll Monday night, the venue was predictably sold out, with familiar faces from previous shows dotted amongst the gathered. However, the fear of a Tuesday morning hangover and the relative onslaught of new material kept the room energy on a simmer rather than rolling boil. It’s not to say that the new material (even yet-to-be released, as the band played previews of songs on forthcoming releases Zeppelin Over China and Warp And Woof) lacked the zip and oomph of a classic GBV pop rock gems, it’s just that there are only so many hours in the day to keep on top of music, never mind the neverending torrent from Pollard. That said, the mid-tempo chug of “Rally Boys” and slower chug of “Hudson Rake” both features very hummable choruses, and “My Zodiac Companion” might transition from “new shit” to “old classic.”
A high kick during “Shocker In Gloomtown” got the crowd pumped, the mosh pit-inducing “Cut-Out Witch” rallied the troops, and before you knew it the set was already halfway done and prime order of the set list lineup was ready to move the simmer to boil. The so-called “classic lineup” was always a lot of fun live, and the Ricked Wicky lineup was transitory but it’s certainly a huge benefit to have Doug Gillard in the guitar slot. Gillard’s playing is fluid, powerful, and effortless, clearly the best musician that Pollard’s been involved with. Kevin March was another integral piece to the punch of this show, playing powerfully and providing backing vocals, and with Mark Shue laid the groundwork for a rock solid rhythm. Songs like “Game Of Pricks,” “Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory,” “Tractor Rape Chain,” “Official Ironman Rally Song” – all of these deserve to be widely celebrated in the rock canon, and not just by indie rock fans. Long live Rockathon.
Park Doing took the stage first and took a decidedly oddball approach, opening with a deadpan question about why do punk rockers have wristwatches? He did have a guitar, and had some looped rhythm to play and sing over, but it definitely wasn’t a typical rock performance. That said, an engineering professor from Cornell isn’t usually the one on stage, either (aside from Greg Graffin, I guess) but it made for a brief and engaging set.