One word could be used to sum up Modest Mouse’s recent performance at the House of Blues: Elevated. The songs have gotten lighter and bouncier, while the absurd philosophical yarns about death and the devil have remained consistent.
It seems now that lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock is less interested in confronting his audience with his demons. The demons are out there; they are the things that hold us back. Thankfully, he still does his humorous, intentionally indecipherable mumbling between songs, which is a throwback to when he couldn’t give a shit. With an expanded cast of well-known band members (i.e., guitarst Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths), each instrument is actually doubled on stage (drums, guitar, even bass).
Modest Mouse’s is on cruise control, which is not to say they are complacently strumming out the smoove hitz. It just feels relaxed in a way their early shows never were. Brock was always the loose cannon breaking strings, mumbling, and driving the shows drunk at high speed, which made things exciting. Whereas Eric Judy was the consistently mellow deep-end, fret-gazing flannel supporter, and Jeremiah Green was the hip Edward Scissorhands, with drum sticks, Brock was the fiery, talented kid with a penchant for lonely highway indie rock.
Isaac and crew rolled in early in a very tricked out van that probably has probably never broken down nor seen the tundra of North Dakota. And there was certainly no groaning in this crowd. From the intro airhorn through the first half of the set, the crowd was singing every line. In fact, it felt like a hometown show. I can see it now: “Brock and company retire to the warmer climes for weekly shows in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.”
With everyone behind you, there’s no one to fight. So when Marr came over to Brock towards the end of the set and presumably said, “Hey man, why not have someone else play guitar for the next one?” Isaac relinquished his axe to a guitar tech and sang the next one with just the mic and a smoke in hand.