Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships at the Paradise, September 30, 2008
Back when Guided by Voices were pulling from 20 years of music to assemble marathon set lists, the result was often frenzied jubilation followed by unified exhaustion. These days, Bob Pollard is doing something even bolder than abandoning the GbV moniker: touring with a set list culled from his most recent couple of projects, Robert Pollard Is Off to Business and his Boston Spaceships’ Brown Submarine album.
It’s refreshing that Pollard isn’t trying to rewrite the two-minute power pop of GbV’s heyday, and his relentless (and hyperprolific) pursuits are admirable. But his refusal to tailor his increasingly infrequent live shows (even slightly) to the kind of music he’s making of late is frustrating. At the Paradise on September 30, the surprising, thoughtful arrangements on Brown Submarine were treated to similar somewhat-distorted-yet-jangly interpretations. Weirdly structured prog explorations were presented as if to send the crowd into a Cheap Tricky frenzy. They did not.
Sure, it’s difficult not to have a good time when Pollard is having one himself. He’s 50 now, still doing high leg kicks and microphone twirls, swigging from tequila bottles, and spouting crazy bullshit like “Hey Boston, remember when we played the Rat in ’77?” But the audience reserved its elation for the first encore, when the rare GbV songs “Sensational Gravity Boy” and “Crutch Came Slinking” were busted out. The evening went overtime (surprise!!), whereupon the club turned on the house lights and the get-the-fuck-out-of-here music in an effort to alert Bob that the show should end. Instead, under harsh, unsexy white light, and to the visible displeasure of Paradise staff, he launched into another encore set: “Salty Salute,” “Cut Out Witch,” and “Tractor Rape Chain.” These trustworthy fist pumpers may have been necessary to thrill a crowd of GbV fans, but there are so many other ways to elicit rapture. Pollard takes so many risks on tape — why can’t this sense of adventure make it to the stage?
: Live Reviews
, Paradise Rock Club
, Robert Pollard
, Robert Pollard