MERCURY REV, JAMES DELA CRUZ (DJ SET) @ Oxford Art Factory, 07 December 2015
Eschewing the usual opening band, the warm-up honours went to James Dela Cruz (The Avalanches) who played an eclectic hour long DJ set that stretched from Neil Young to warm techno flows and some fine turntablism skills.
Mercury Rev hold a fairly unique position in music with their fantastical, dramatic sound that hits both the extremes of shoegaze and the fragile beauty of Catskill Mountains Americana. This was quite possibly the smallest venue the band have played in Australia so it was a chance for fans to experience them in full flight in relatively intimate surrounds. From a sea of dry ice pierced by dreamy washes of blue light emerged Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and their bassist, drummer and keyboardist/flautist. What followed was the full Mercury Rev experience that was in no way downsized or compromised for the club venue. Their recently released album The Light In You got a fair showing in the setlist but they know that their audience peaked with the seminal Deserters Songs album. Early fans were treated to Frittering from Yerself Is Steam (1991) but it was tracks from the aforementioned album that drew the biggest cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. Holes, Goddess On A Hiway and Opus 40 were exquisite in their delivery with Donahue commanding the centre of the stage with conductor flourishes and grand gestures like a magician conjuring up some dramatic illusion. Opus 40 rounded out the main set with an extended and accelerated surge into sheets of distortion with a sonic dizziness that seemed to spin the room on its axis.
Mercury Rev were art rock in dazzling glory, almost too grandiose for the small setting but they never overcooked it. The mystery in their music had the audience immersing themselves in its dark romance while at the same time trying to figure out just how they create such an ornate and wonderful sound from their standard rock band format.