MERCURY REV live at The Bronson Club, Ravenna, Italy 14th November 2015
When the music’s over, life loses meaning.
In the immediate aftermath of the bloodshed in Paris, it was a relief that Mercury Rev decided to go ahead with this show in Ravenna, their only date in Italy.
“The music doesn’t stop. Maybe it’s the only thing we have now” says Jonathan Donahue at the beginning of a luminous concert which briefly makes the horrific events at Le Batacian seem like a fleeting nightmare.
It is a timely reminder that music has the power to excite, inspire and unite. When the news is dominated by death it gives us strength and hope.
On a stage bathed in orange and blue light, the band’s opening songs – The Queen Of Swans and Funny Bird – emerge magically from the haze. Stage centre is Donahue, smiling beatifically. He gracefully acts out the songs which sound rockier than they do on record yet still manage to induce an etherial, trance-like quality. He gestures theatrically as if playing an imaginary theremin.
The 16-track set list includes five songs from their new album The Light In You which blend seamlessly with classics from earlier records. Plus, in a real goosebumps moment, they play a sublime cover of Neil Young’s A Man Needs A Maid.
In the encore performance of Goddess On A Hiway, Donahue sings “I know it ain’t gonna last” and adds an extra line: “It’s not supposed to last”. This echoes the words of George Harrison’s magnum opus, All Things Must Pass but to feel truly alive we need music of this stature to give us the power to dream, to feel strong yet vulnerable, to give light where there is darkness.
As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake”.
It can; it will; it must go on.