Mercury Rev live at The Roundhouse, London, 21/05/11

The single album concert is all about nostalgia, a classic band playing one of their classic albums to a partisan crowd. This is a theme that ATP Concerts have been promoting for some years now since they started their ‘Don’t Look Back’ series of concerts. Tonight it was the turn of Mercury Rev to bring their Deserters Songs album to the Roundhouse in London.

First up, and sticking with the nostalgia theme, was ChamelonsVox, the current version of 1980s act The Chameleons. The Chameleons are an act that I’d heard of, but never knowingly listened to. In advance of the gig I checked out a couple of tunes on YouTube and was surprised to find a couple of songs that I knew amongst their early output. Original singer Mark Burgess was backed at this gig by a bunch of musicians that were able to pretty perfectly replicate that early 80s Manchester sound, complete with guitar pedal effects overload.

There were elements of many of their contemporary north west acts in their sound, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Joy Division all came to mind during the set. It was a professional performance but the lack of song familiarity, and a rather dour overall sound, make it hard to get too enthusiastic. The fans in the crowd seem to love it and I can’t really offer up a very educated opinion on the set. It is hampered a little by the slightly variable Roundhouse sound, several places in the auditorium offering up a very washed out audio experience. I move to find a better position to listen to the main event.



I’ve not been to a single album concert before, and it is slightly odd to know not just which songs will be played, but also the order they’ll be played in. First up is album opener ‘Holes’ and the song, performance and experience is pretty magical from the start. The band, lead by the angelic voiced Jonathan Donahue and the enigmatic Grasshopper, seem to be enjoying every minute and this is reflected by a very appreciative audience.

Mercury Rev

Mercury Rev

Listening to the set I’m left wondering why it has been so long since I listened to the album in full. The singles sound great, and get the best response from the crowd, but it is impressive just what a consistent concise and well paced album it is. It is also an album that retrospectively deserved a place in our top 100 list, but you can’t remember everything. Despite some extended versions of tracks the set ends quickly, limited by the length of the album, and the band leave the stage to rapturous applause.

The band return to the stage and play a very well chosen set of songs as the encore. ‘Car Wash Hair’ showcases the quirky early incarnation of the band and ‘The Dark Is Rising’ epitomises the overblown orchestrated drama of the post-Deserters Songs band. After four songs in the encore they leave the stage and the house lights go up. Some of the audience seemed unhappy with the overall concert length, but that seems to miss the point somewhat. What we got was a great set of songs played with passion and that seems like more than good value for money to me.


By Dorian Rogers