OCT. 12, 2010

The one letdown after having seen Guided By Voices live was that they didn’t play “Redmen and Their Wives”. I had some reason to think they might – it did make an appearance on the 2007’s Live From Austin, TX, an album that was recorded back in 2004 when the band was playing songs from their entire discography.

And the whole point of this tour was that the “classic” lineup – Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell, and Greg Demos – was getting back together to play songs from the golden years of their creativity, between 1993 and 1996. So there’s a limited pool to draw from.

Before the first of three encores, a friend asked what more they could play, as they had performed an amazing round of some of their most beloved songs. My answer was “Redmen and Their Wives”, but it really should’ve been “A lot”, because even though I didn’t hear that track, their discography had a lot more to give.

GBV released five albums in that four-year period, a couple of which – Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes – are regarded by critics as masterpieces, and the rest – Vampires on Titus, Under the Bushes Under the Stars, and Tonics and Twisted Chasers – are beloved by fans both casual and obsessive. In addition to this, they put out a slew of EPs and singles in this time. (“Too many EPs,” Pollard drunkly slurred when announcing a song off one of those releases.) They had a big pool of awesome to draw from on this tour.

And draw they did. Those I was with told me the show went on for around two-and-a-half hours, but it felt like half that for the level of awesome they brought that night.

Pollard was lively and drunk, performing rock kicks throughout the set and treating the audience to some of the between-song chatter they could ask for. Sprout, a frequent Pollard songwriting conspirator, was a quiet force on stage, but definitely delivered when it came time for him to sing his songs from the period. Mitchell still has a roadie dedicated to lighting his cigarettes for him while he shreds on guitar.

In short, this band, whose discography from this time and after focused on twisting and reforming familiar rock sounds into something moving and surprising, is still just as vital as they ever were. Long live Guided By Voices.