Robert Pollard takes Boston on a 50-song tour of Guided By Voices
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Stumbling out of the club mildly disoriented is a special feeling. Better still if not from alcohol but from the blunt-force trauma of a charged band and its never-ending setlist.
Robert Pollard, leader of the ever-changing Guided By Voices, is more than aware of this. And on an otherwise nondescript Monday night in Boston, he pulled an appreciative crowd through a gauntlet of songs with hardly a break or a breath to spare.
Pollard said some muffled version of, “We have about two hours and 45 minutes left, and 50 songs on the list” about five songs in, and my first thought was, “that’s hilarious.” I appreciate a little hyperbole in the name of enthusiasm, and I was ready for whatever they were going to throw at the crowd.
Or so I thought, because I wasn’t prepared for the band to deliver on that promise so precisely. Almost immediately, they jumped into the Bee Thousand classic “Tractor Rape Chain,” one of the greatest examples of the near-nonsense, stream-of-conscious lyrical style that Pollard and his band have honed and perfected for more than 30 years.
And the entire set took on the shape of whatever constitutes the typical Guided By Voices song. It was a loose, jumbled, flowing and still somehow coherent playlist. All these two-minute nuggets of pure rock and roll were flying out one-by-one stretched over nearly three hours without any real lulls in energy.
The set pulled from Guided By Voices’ latest record, Please Be Honest, along with a number of gems from that vast catalog and songs from some of Pollard’s recent projects, including Boston Spaceships, Ricked Wicky and his solo albums. It all blended seamlessly, and the band wheeled their way through all of it.
The re-tooled lineup behind Pollard has Kevin March (from just before their 2004 split) back behind the drums, along with Bobby Bare and Nick Mitchell on guitars and Mark Shue on bass. With the “classic” lineup forever doomed, the four guys behind him had done their homework and could whirl their way through the songs as well as anyone, and were happy to share in a swig of Jack Daniels with Pollard in between beers, too.
“Thank you for supporting the Guided By Voices brand name,” Pollard said before playing another song from Please Be Honest, “and let’s be honest, it is a brand name that we put on the new record. Isn’t it nice when everyone’s honest?”
The new record could have been another Pollard solo album, but even those are essentially Guided By Voices albums, if not in name but in spirit. The music flows through him, and he’s the center of attention even as he deflects to his bandmates. All the while, the songs are constantly at the forefront for the audience, which is the point of this entire exercise.
And it’s what justifies Guided By Voices continued existence. The band always subsisted as a living embodiment of rock and roll in its most basic and exuberant form, a factory that pumps out tuneful morsels as fast as Pollard can assemble the musicians or just play all the damn instruments himself.
On this night, he had plenty of help and a crowd that was more than willing to follow him down whichever path he felt like blazing. Grab a beer, brace yourself and get ready for the ride. It’s a long one and Guided By Voices is intent on providing as promised.
Email Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org