Reunion tours are becoming so commonplace these days that it's easy to become rather blase about them. Hey, I don't begrudge any band making some well-deserved cash years after its heyday, especially some of the indie acts like the Feelies or the Pixies (yeah, they were on a major, but nobody was buying those albums back in the day). But when you see acts like the Eagles, Police or the Who charging sky-high ticket prices for reunion shows, it's a bit soul-deflating.
That certainly isn't the case with Guided By Voices, who have reunited the classic early '90s lineup to do a club tour that came through Boston's Paradise Rock Club last Friday. Bob Pollard and boys hadn't played together in 14 years, although different lineups toured through 2004. The show quickly sold out, which is a testament to how beloved that stretch of albums was to indie rock fans. Pollard, who is one of the most prolific rock artists of all time, continues to make quality power pop, but classic GBV releases like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand rank among the best rock albums ever.
A few hours before the show, I joined my pals Senor Breitling, Bryan Hamill, and other GBV diehards at the Sunset Cantina down Comm. Ave. enjoying a few adult beverages. Just down the bar was Mitch Mitchell, GBV guitarist supreme, getting a head start on the evening's festivities. Even though this was my first GBV show, I knew the band's live reputation: Loud and drunk. And sure enough, they didn't disappoint on either count.
The Dise was packed with plenty of soused fanboys (and a few fangirls) singing every word to each of the 39 songs, most of which didn't surpass 2 minutes in length. Pollard and Mitchell were both chain-smoking throughout, with Pollard alternately swigging from a bottle of tequila and Miller Lite longnecks. Classics like "A Salty Salute," "Motor Away," "Gold Star for Robot Boy" and "Echos Myron" had the club reverberating.
Pollard was clearly having a blast, whether he was remarking that his band Boston Spaceships didn't come close to selling out the Paradise or ripping on the hometown Mighty Mighty Bosstones and shoegazers alike. He swung his microphone like Roger Daltrey and let fly a few classic high leg-kicks while Mitchell and bassist Greg Demos happily made awesome rock poses all night. Meanwhile, guitarist-songwriter Tobin Sprout looked like a college professor on the other side of the stage, quietly providing rhythm guitar and occasionally stepping to the mike to play classics like "14 Cheerleader Coldfront" and "Awful Bliss."
Mitchell even had a cigarette roadie, who would light his smokes and then place them in his mouth in mid-song. It was a sight to behold. Mitchell enthusiastically praised Boston and its women in a hilarious X-rated rant and took on drunken lead vocals on "Postal Blowfish" in the first of the band's three encores.
GBV played for two hours, but could have easily played two more before anyone even thought about going home. It was a testament to everything that makes live rock great, that feeling that you'd rather be nowhere else in the world at that moment. A salty salute, indeed.
Some fan-shot clips from the show: