Mercury Rev : London Camden Electric Ballroom

The Rev with their finest album to date and a glorious new stage show...

There’s not many doubts that can’t be dispelled by a red satin shirt and an outrageous messiah pose. If Mercury Rev have been troubled by following up the unexpectedly successful ‘Deserter’s Songs’, or their flock concerned by the long wait for new material, then neither side is betraying their worries tonight. As the glorious curtain-calling ‘The Dark Is Rising’ crashes around him, Jonathan Donahue throws his head back, holds his arms up into the yellow lights, then slowly, slowly, brings his hands together to stop the music. It’s a perfect end to the lavish rush of psychedelic production numbers, a band who have so often spun out of control conducting their musical universe with gleeful mastery.

From the moment they emerge – Grasshopper in heist-master shades, Jonathan with a Bambi-like smile – and lash into ‘The Funny Bird’, it’s Mercury Rev are holding true to their promise not to disappoint us. Okay, there are moments when songs as wonderful as ‘Opus 40’ or ‘Tonite It Shows’ sound a little choked, a little cluttered, but in the huge cosmic scheme, their balance sheet is in the black.

For live, songs from their new album ‘All Is Dream’ are touched with the same intimate tenderness and universe-wide ambition that made ‘Deserter’s Songs’ such a triumph. The psyche-stalking ‘Lincoln’s Eyes’, eerie as folklore; torchsong ‘Spiders And Flies’ lighting a path to darker places; the dreamy lunar pull of ‘Tides Of The Moon’. In the same way as Jonathan can go from faun-like crooner to childcatcher in the flash of a stagelight, so these songs shift from the lovely to the uncanny,

from smoke to mirrors.

So they took their time. So they toured ‘Deserter’s Songs’ into the ground. Whatever success has done for Mercury Rev, it hasn’t warped their velvet-curtain panache into hardened showbiz grit or mulched their rich emotions into multipurpose rock. They’re still dreaming, still reaching for the light, and tonight, it shows.

Victoria Segal