LIVE REVIEW: Mew at Royal Festival Hall, London

LIVE REVIEW: Mew at Royal Festival Hall, London

In 2005, a largely unknown Danish band Mew swept the international scene with their fourth album And the Glass Handed Kites. This band’s breakthrough was unique because this effort departed from their previously more accessible sound to deliver a continuous prog-rock project. 

This 14 track Mew album featured two songs with J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) on joint vocals, which came to life with amazing visuals (rarely used by musicians and still often in an inchoate state by those who did in 2005-2006) didn’t only renew interest in prog-rock; Mew also brought about a revolution in delivering live music.

Being fifteen years since the world was blessed with And the Glass Handed Kites, Mew kindly decided to indulge fans with a live chronological set of this LP from start to finish. With this gig being their first UK gig since 2018 (and fourth gig this year), whilst dressed in black, seldom offering chit-chat and often visually being dimmed by the prowess of the LED’s to aid their visuals; their hunger and tenacity for this live could not be concealed.

With And the Glass Handed Kites being played chronologically, “Circuitry of the Wolf” opened the set. Whether it was the band being away from the UK for three years or a rare opportunity to hear this now classic, sacrosanct LP in full and in chronological order; Mew was able to transport their many new fans who first discovered them during back in 2005-2006 to the elation they felt when they first heard this innovative effort. As And the Glass Handed Kites was created as a continuous project, Mew did not allow themselves to stop to absorb the ecstatic applause in between the tracks. The Danish outfit eventually allowed themselves to stop and take in what was now almost uncontrollable applause and cheers after they finished playing track seven: “The Zookeeper’s Boy”.

With “The Zookeeper’s Boy” being one of the more known tracks from And the Glass Handed Kites and the bait to entice fans into falling for Mew, wide applause was always inevitable. What was even more impressive was that the supporting video visuals for this track which the band originally used when they initially toured it back in 2005-2006, still held the test of time.  The boy with ballerina-like figures behind him with unusual distorted creature-like heads was still as mesmerising and perplexing as it was fifteen years ago. Considering how far visuals supporting live music has come since 2005, this is miraculous.

A lengthy encore commenced once Mew finished playing the concluding track from And the Glass Handed Kites "Louise Louisa". Upon their return Mew played songs from their second LP, Half the World Is Watching Me, which included the infectious and instant synth-rock “156” plus songs from the verbosely titled follow up the And the Glass Handed Kites, often shortened down to “No More Stories...”. Mew brought the Southbank the gift of enabling their fans to enjoy them as an intelligent outsider prog-rock band and, through songs like “156”, the ability for fans to dig them as if they were an international stadium rock band.

Whilst the wider music press correctly saw the deft musical construction of And the Glass Handed Kites; its haunting lyrics were often overlooked, such as “The Zookeeper Boy’s” “You're tall just like a giraffe. You have to climb to find its head. But if there's a glitch. You're an ostrich. You've got your head in the sand”. Such lyrics were felt live amidst the unnervingly eccentric visuals. Furthermore, this poetic talent was already present in earlier tracks also played live, such as “156” with “You can run away. Leave your books behind you. But you should look back twice. Just to be on the safe side”.

Setlist
1. Circuitry of the Wolf
2. Chinaberry Tree
3. Why Are You Looking Grave?
4. Fox Cub
5. Apocalypso
6. Special
7. The Zookeeper's Boy
8. A Dark Design
9. Saviours of Jazz Ballet (Fear Me, December)
10. An Envoy to the Open Fields
11. Small Ambulance
12. The Seething Rain Weeps for You (Uda Pruda)
13. White Lips Kissed
14. Louise Louisa

Encore
15. Introducing Palace Players
16. Sometimes Life Isn't Easy
17. Am I Wry? No
18. 156
19. Comforting Sounds

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