Guided By Voices Hits Its Target

IMG_6276They were playing Captain Beyond before the Guided by Voices’ super marathon at the Black Cat Friday and that was about right: post psychedelic, pre-prog rock Brit/American mix with all kinds of fanciful medieval references. The kind of thing that ancient GBV leader Robert Pollard would relish, in other words, or put out on his own.

Except that by now Guided by Voices is way, way beyond even Captain Beyond.

At 60, with a mop of white hair, he may look like an out to seed golf pro who might gingerly stepping into retirement, but Pollard may be one of the most prolific figures in rock ’n’ roll history, with more than 2,400 song titles in the online GBV database alone.

While zooming through an enjoyable, rollicking set through a fraction of them Friday — a whopping 53 songs over two and a half hours — Pollard was ostensibly promoting the band’s latest release, Space Gun, its 26th or so release (Pollard also has nearly as many solo albums).

But he also was playing quite a lot from the three (!) albums the band has in the can that are being readied for release next year. “And one of them is a double album,” he added. He named them: Zeppelin Over ChinaWarp & Woof and The Rite of the Ants.

All of this output despite the fact of at least a couple breakups and multi-year hiatuses of the band over its 35 year career — one lasting for six years, the other for two — and a wholesale change in members backing Pollard about 20 years ago.

Still traveling with a cooler as big as the bass drum (and seemingly just as necessary) Pollard is clearly the engine that keeps this rock band going. As he declares in one song, “I Am a Strong Lion.” And even aside from his creative perspective on UFOs and ghosts and sports teams and anything else that pops into his head, his vocals are still pretty good, even as he still kind of borrows an admiring British accent and twirls the mic-Roger Daltry Style, while clearly underused guitarist Bobby Bare Jr. windmilled wildly in Pete Townshend’s fashion. It’s those traces of British rock that still animate a lot of the surprisingly melodic work.

The lead guitar is handled by Doug Gillard, who got to do one of his own songs in the encore. Bassist Mark Shue and Kevin March seem just happy and very enthusiastic to be part of the band, which is a good thing.

The crowd was so stoked by the show it almost looked like they had just come direct from a GBV convention, barking lyrics knowingly to one another and high giving like crazy (instead of, say, moshing).

Still Pollard kept apologizing for doing so many new songs. “I know you want the hits,” he said. “But let me tell you something: We don’t have any hits.”

The lack of conventional success might have kept them from the chart placement they deserve, but no one can deny as hits things like “Teenage FBI” and “Glad Girls,” which were saved for the nine-song encore.

While beer was once central to GBV live sets, or at least a famous sideshow, there seemed less of a reliance on it Friday, despite the prominence of the famous on-stage cooler. He only opened his first cold one five songs in. Then somebody strolled on to hand them a bottle of some kind of liquor about nine songs in, which Pollard took a few draws on, passed around stage and eventually gave to the audience as it started to affect the performance.

During the last third of the show, he started to slur through some of his amusing song introductions and with the band blazing away behind him, he started to sing a bit like Shane MacGowan.

That put a bit of a damper on things, but the band largely stuck to its slavishly created setlist. In the encore, they were able to pull out by request “Cheyenne,” a 2002 tune they’ve only played a handful of times this year.

But nothing could take away from the pride of heading a band that has created so much while sidestepping the conventional music business trappings, and can count on drawing a huge, loyal crowd without the need of major labels. Pollard took time to point that out, but it hardly needed to have been said.

The set list for Guided by Voices Friday was: 

  • “Tenth Century”
  • “A Salty Salute”
  • “Rally Boys”
  • “Grey Spat Matters”
  • “My Future in Barcelona”
  • “That’s Good”
  • “Our Gaze”
  • “West Coast Company Man”
  • “Warm Up to Religion”
  • “Tractor Rape Chain”
  • “Cohesive Scoops”
  • “Sport Component National”
  • “King Flute”
  • “King 007″
  • “Motor Away”
  • “It’s a Pleasure Being You”
  • “See My Field”
  • “I Want You to Be My Angel”
  • “Cut-Out Witch”
  • “My Zodiac Companion”
  • “I Am a Scientist”
  • “Daily Get-Ups”
  • “You Own the Night”
  • “Colonel Paper”
  • “Bury the Mouse”
  • “My Kind of Soldier”
  • “Hudson Rake”
  • “Back to the Lake”
  • “The Best of Jill Hives”
  • “Thimble Society”
  • “Jane of the Waking Universe”
  • “Earmarked for Collision”
  • “Things I Will Keep”
  • “Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory”
  • “Shocker in Gloomtown”
  • “I’m a Strong Lion”
  • “Just to Show You”
  • “I Am a Tree”
  • “Your Name is Wild”
  • “Lord of Overstock”
  • “Space Gun”
  • “Echos Myron”
  • “Recovering”
  • “Cheyenne”
  • “Game of Pricks”
  • “Skills like This
  • “Parade On”
  • “Sudden Fiction”
  • “Teenage FBI”
  • “We Gotta Go”
  • “Gold Star for Robot Boy”
  • “Glad Girls”
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