Referendum duties meant that the Throwing Muses Glasgow show last Wednesday just wasn’t feasible. But missing a Muses tour is just not an option these so if it needed to be a trip down south to see them then a trip down south it had to be.
Having (regrettably) rejected the London shows on cost grounds, I was left with a return to Holmfirth where the MPT family had seen Ash last year. Part of the attraction of Holmfirth, of course, is the excellent Picturedrome venue – I was impressed with the good sightlines and excellent sound last time and it was the same this year.
Of course if any Muses show in the U.K. is special then this was even more so as support came from former member Tanya Donelly.
I’d not seen Tanya play live since Belly supported R.E.M. in the slightly larger surroundings of Murrayfield Stadium way back in 1995. It’s fair to say the Picturedrome provided slightly more intimate surroundings.
The line-up too suggested a more intimate performance – two electric guitars and an acoustic with a cello also filling in some of the bass parts.
Tanya started with a handful of well received songs from her Swan Song Series of E.P.s but the show truly took off when she delved into her back catalogue.
There were no fewer than four Belly songs aired (‘Low Red Moon’, ‘Dusted’, ‘Red’ and ‘Slow Dog’). After the restrained performances on the early songs, I did wonder how the line-up might pull off the more up tempo songs but none of that quartet suffered from the lack of a conventional rhythm section and all were rapturously received.
But the biggest roar of her set went up when the cellist plucked the bass intro to ‘Honeychain’, the first of two of her old Muses songs to make an appearance. Somehow the four musicians whipped up quite a storm. The second was the closing ‘Not Too Soon’ with Tanya stating that she couldn’t do it alone. So she invited friends up on stage to dance and contribute backing vocals for a wildly entertaining end to the set.
So to the Muses themselves. There was a minor glitch when the sound engineer forgot to switch on Kristin’s vocal mic at the start of ‘Sunray Venus’ but otherwise things went perfectly.
The first half of the set was drawn from ‘Purgatory/Paradise’ with the exception of a wired version of ‘Mississippi Kite’ which seems to have defected from K’s solo career to become a fully blown Muses classic.
With some of the fractured tunes from the record presented here as whole songs it was great to hear so much of the new material. The Muses have pretty much always been in perpetual forward motion (which made the ‘Anthology’ tour such an anomaly in the band’s history) so it was fitting that the recent album got its share of the spotlight.
Whilst it might have been nice to have mixed up the newer stuff with the older stuff there was a good reason that the second half of the set was given over to the back catalogue as Tanya re-took the stage during ‘You Cage’ to join the band for the next few songs.
The material in this part of the set certainly fitted well with the accessibility of the ‘P/P’ tunes and there were some welcome surprises in the shape of ‘Red Shoes’ and ‘Devil’s Roof’. Tanya was also given the mic for ‘Green’ (the only tune played from the debut) before the main set was finished off with a thunderous and wonderful ‘Say Goodbye’.
The encore (and its aftermath) is a story in itself. A fantastic version of ‘Shark’ and long time live favourite ‘Pearl’ earned a hugely enthusiastic call for a second encore. Which only got louder when the DJ started playing a tune. Then louder again when he turned up the volume.
With the house lights not being switchedon there were still hopes that the band may return again and these hopes were only finally dashed when the sound techs, who clearly were expecting a return themselves, finally gave up and left their allotted space on the stage.
At just over an hour the show felt a little short (it’s the shortest set I’ve ever seen the band play) and the enthusiastic imploring of the audience for an encore suggested that most felt the same way. As, unfortunately, did the occasional, unmerited booing. But as Andy reckoned it was a question of quality over quantity. Nevertheless this blogger would have definitely sacrificed the odd work colleague to have heard both ‘Slippershell’ and ‘Bright Yellow Gun’.
It’s not impossible that this might be the last time I see the Muses play. I sincerely hope not, but if it is then my abiding memory of the show will be just how great they were – particularly so since they played just four of the same songs as they had played back in 2011. There’s not many bands could come close to pulling that trick off.
But I want to see them again (and again) because Throwing Muses are my favourite live band on the planet, bar none. They are simply glorious. Scratch that, Throwing Muses are my favourite band on the planet in person and on record.
Sure, I can justify that statement partly with reference to the musicians’ individual contributions – Kristin’s compelling performances on guitar and vocals, Dave ‘The Best Drummer In The World’ Narcizo (at times he seems to take the lead on some songs but not in a corny drum solo way) and Bernard’s fluid yet meaty bass. But it’s when these musicians play these songs together that they become far more than the sum of their parts.
Throwing Muses played:
1. Sunray Venus 2. Freesia 3. Static 4. Lazy Eye 5. Sleepwalking 6. Dripping Trees 7. Mississippi Kite 8. Milan 9. Glass Cats 10. You Cage 11. Red Shoes 12. Devil’s Roof 13. Green 14. Say Goodbye
15. Shark 16. Pearl