After having my flight delayed due to a mechanical problem and watching the pilots and mechanics scratch their heads in the cockpit for an hour, I luckily was rushed to a new plane and made it straight from the airport to the Orpheum just in time for the end of Love as Laughter's set. After having seen Modest Mouse twice in the most horrible venues in the country for sound (Aragon Ballroom and Eagle's Ballroom- stay away from those ballrooms), I was thrilled to finally get a chance to hear them in a theatre designed to house music. My anticipation only grew when I saw our seats- I don't know how it happened, but apparently two aisle seats in row P (read: pretty close) were still available as of Thursday when we purchased our tickets, something that would never happen in Chicago. I won't question our good luck.
Modest Mouse took the stage with two drummers and Johnny Marr and kicked off with "Paper Thin Walls," one of the more thrilling songs of the night and one of the few pre-Good News tracks we were treated to. Even though I was prepared to hear mostly new material, I guess I still hoped for some surprise classics; only "Dramamine" and "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" qualified for that tag, with additional representation from typical live favorite "Doin' the Cockroach". Probably not coincidentally, these were the songs that turned into some crazy 10-minute long jams (don't think Isaac Brock usually goes on for five minutes about "quotas" during "Tiny Cities"), while the new stuff was played pretty much straight off the records. Not unexpectedly, the Modest Mouse crowd had changed from what had once been a mix of hipsters and hippies to a mix of hipsters, hippies and scantily clad young girls.
Overall, everything sounded good and Isaac was doing some good crazy rockin' on stage, but I think the size of the venue, though smaller than what they usually play at these days, was still too big for me to feel much connection with the band, and for once, I couldn't blame the sound for that. "Bukowski" had some fire and "Missed the Boat" was certainly nice, but relatively close as I was, I still felt too far away from the band. Frustratingly, the excitement I've been getting from listening to the new album seemed to be missing for me when I heard the same songs live.
I hate to think I'm becoming too snobby about venue size, but sad to say I've been pretty spoiled with life at Schubas, the Empty Bottle and even the Metro. I have a feeling very few bands at this point will be able to thrill me much at a place larger than the Vic (Sigur Ros' show at the Civic Opera comes to mind, but their sound is a much better fit for a theatre than a rock band). I think I just need to accept that the live Modest Mouse experience I wanted happened about five years ago and isn't coming back, and just continue to worship their recorded material in the meantime.