2006 feels like a lifetime ago. I was still a relative newlywed and still finding time to go to concerts every couple of months. This was before having two kids and two jobs and our nightlife was much more active. Around this time, I discovered a remarkable album by the Danish band Mew curiously titles …And the Glass-Handed Kites. Their music was very unique, relying on aggressive drumming with constantly changing rhythms undergirding crunchy, off-kilter guitar riffs and the lead singer’s soaring falsetto vocals. After listening to Kites, I had to dig deeper into their discography. I got my hands on their previous album, Frengers, and liked it even more. This band was quickly becoming one of my favorites.
While surfing info on the band, I discovered that they were actually touring the US opening for Kasabian and they would stop at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis on 10/5/06. I snapped up a pair of tickets and my wife and I both went to the show. I was mesmerized by their elaborate arrangements performed live along with a visual projection show created by the lead singer – Jonas Bjerre. They blew me away. We didn’t even stay for Kasabian.
The band left Minneapolis and headed west with their headliner. Once that tour completed on the West Coast, Mew decided to backtrack east and put together their own headlining tour. Three weeks after playing the Fine Line as the opener, they booked there again – this time as the headliner. I decided to go back and see their expanded set. I remember planning to buy my ticket at the door (my wife decided not to double dip on Mew). While I was in line, a car pulled up and asked if I had a ticket. I said no, thinking they wanted to buy from me. But the guy in the car said he had one he couldn’t use and just gave it to me. Sweet deal. Again, Mew was fantastic and they added a half dozen songs to their set this time around.
So all that was in the fall of 2006 and the band hasn’t been back through the Twin Cities since then. Now, with the release of a new album this year entitled +- (plus/minus), they were finally returning for the first time in 9 years. Serendipitously, they booked at the Triple Rock Social Club for 10/5/15, 9 years to the day since their first show here.
Mew’s opener for this tour is The Dodos, a two-piece rock outfit (Meric Long on vocals and guitar and Logan Kroeber on drums) whose sound fits quite well with the Danish band’s. The diminutive guys took the stage and launched into a phrenetic jam to open and then… the guitarist promptly broke a string. He tried playing without it for a few bars, but decided it wasn’t worth it. They stopped and switched guitars and picked back up where they left off. It was a tough start and it obviously frustrated the guys. They commented that the rest of their set felt different since they had to switch up which guitars they used and even had to retune one between songs. Still, with all the technical hiccups, they put on a good show. Long’s guitar work was fairly spectacular throughout as he fingerpicked some blazing patterns over the extremely tight drumming from Kroeber. I’m going to have to delve into their discography a bit after seeing their show.
Meric Long commented towards the end of their set that we’re lucky because this is the smallest venue Mew has played on this tour. While that is exciting, isn’t it also a bit sad that they couldn’t book a more consistently sized venue in our fair city?
Before we get to the main event, a bit of recent history on Mew. Originally a 4 piece, Mew’s founding bassist, Johan Wohlert, left the band after Glass Handed Kites because he was expecting his first child and didn’t want to be absent. The band became a trio with Jonas on vocals, Bo Madsen on guitars and Silas Jorgensen on drums. This is the lineup that recorded the band’s fifth LP No More Stories… . Late last year, the band and their producer approached Johan about rejoining them for their 6th album and he agreed to rejoin the band full time! Unfortunately, after finishing that album, Bo Madsen decided to leave (on good terms, is the scuttlebutt). The band has installed Mads Wegner as the touring guitarist and has long toured with keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Nick Watts. It’s this lineup that took the stage on Monday night.
As a backing track faded up, Silas crashed in with his signature attacking drum beats as the rest of the band emerged. Lastly, Jonas strode out and serenely took the mic. He looks like a teen idol with his long hair and earnest blue eyes (think Jonathan Brandis of SeaQuest “fame”) and many of the females in the audience were quite vocal in their affections. As they launched into their opener, Witness from +-, Jonas showed that his stage presence is a calm, steady one – in stark contrast to the rock posturing the rest of the band prefers. He gazes cooly out to the middle distance as his voice jumps all over the scale. Meanwhile, Johan throws himself into his bass and plays to the crowd on every song. The same goes for Mads, who handled all of Bo’s wild guitar riffs perfectly. In the back of the stage, Silas hammers away on his kit and the snare and kick drums are mixed incredibly well creating a near-perfect drum sound.
The band is touring their new album, sure, but they didn’t shy away from playing crowd favorites from their back catalog. After playing two new songs off the top, they quickly jumped to the amazing 1-2 punch of Special and The Zookeeper’s Boy from Glass Handed Kites. So, so good.
From there, the setlist kept up the intensity until a short “intermission” where Johan, Silas and Mads left the stage, leaving Johan and Nick alone for a short, quiet medley of sections from 3 of the band’s softer tunes. Johan went back to the chorus of Zookeeper’s boy once again and held the mic out to the audience, who did their best to belt out the high notes of “Are you my lady, are you?”. And one confident gal in the back called out “I’ll be your lady!”.
Then the rest of the band returned for the home stretch and Johan thanked the audience, saying “I know this city belongs to Prince. But tonight, I think it belongs to you.” Groan.
They finished the main set with two more crowd-pleasers – Am I Wry? No and 156. Then it was encore time, which featured the new tune My Complications and then finished off with my personal favorite Mew tune: Comforting Sounds. It’s a perfect album and concert closer as it slowly builds to a crescendo and then builds some more and Jonas screams out his crystal clear notes.
The band high fived the closer audience members and then assembled to take a bow before exiting the stage smiling and letting one of their stage techs run out and snap an audience picture on his phone, presumably for Instagram. Oh 2015, don’t ever change.
It was a solid, solid show from these guys. Mew clearly have a sound all their own and love playing together. They are 20 years into this project and clearly haven’t started slowing down yet. I’m hopeful that it won’t take them 9 more years to get back to the Twin Cities. But however long it takes them, I’ll line up for tickets. I’d love to see my frengers again.
The Zookeeper’s Boy
Introducing Palace Players
Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy
Medley (Clinging to a Bad Dream / The Zookeeper’s Boy Reprise / Louise Louisa)
Am I Wry? No