Mercury Rev – The Royal Exchange, Manchester – 16th December 2018

Secret Meeting score: 85

by Andrew Lewis

Wow! What a position to be in. After nearly 20 years, I’m sat three rows away from the fellas that accidentally wrote and performed one of the most perfect records that was ever committed to tape.

As a 14 year old that was just about trying to find his way in his own mind, Opus 40 was released on CD single. And I bought it purely because I wanted to be different. However, I had no idea what the song meant until I was old enough to understand Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting.

Watching these fellas open their hearts to the people that made the effort in the first place was something pretty amazing to be a part of. The Deserter’s Songs tour has been put together with the purpose of giving us all an evaluation of the resulting mess that occurred after many years of addiction, bad attitudes and chaos. Listening to them in the flesh, just four rows away, discussing how and where this masterpiece was born, was simply surreal.

Despite hailing from Buffalo, NY, Mercury Rev are a band that found much more popularity  in England than they did in the USA. How come? No explanation is required – lead singer, Jonathan, and guitarist, Grasshopper, never wanted anything but a moderate level of recognition.

The band almost imploded many, many times as a result of the industry – and probably because of the popularity of Britpop. But when you hear the beauty of Tonite It Shows and I Collect Coins up close and personal, you realise how much of a travesty it is that this album isn’t in every music-loving house on the planet.

Not one single person left tonight’s gathering at Exchange Theatre without a beaming smile on their face. It was certainly one of my favourite nights out in 2018.

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