Mercury Rev @ L’Astral – 6th July 2019

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Well, first of all, I have to apologize to Mercury Rev for rolling in 40 minutes into their 80-minute set.  Jazz Fest scheduling always baffles me.  Sometimes, bands play exactly at the advertised time; at others, there is a support band that plays that time.  On paper, Chvrches played at 8:30 pm, and Mercury Rev at 10 pm, so seeing both was feasible.  However, Chvrches actually only hit the stage at 9:20 pm, playing until 10:35 pm.  They were absolutely incredible and there was zero chance I was leaving that show early.  Therefore, I make it to l’Astral in 5 minutes, running in around 10:40 pm as Mercury Rev are playing Tides Of The Moon.  Evidently, they did start at their listed time.  Oh well.

It’s a hugely different vibe.  After the euphoria and delirium of Chvrches, its infinitely more chilled here, with tables dotted around the floor and a smoky stage that makes the place feel like a late-night jazz club.  After a mellow Diamonds, I am thrilled to find out that I didn’t miss Holes, the opener from their magnificent 1996 Deserter’s Songs record (which accounts for 5 of the 12 songs played in tonight’s set), and which still sounds absolutely gorgeous 23 years later (23!  Insane!).  Its sounds even more orchestral and cinematic live, and ends in a warm fuzzy solo that breaks out the goosebumps.  Goddess On A Highway, arguably the bands breakthrough (if you could ever really say that they “broke through” at all), is just as spine-tingling and follows right after.  I count my lucky stars that I got here just in time to hear both of my favourites!

Opus 40 is just as uplifting, brimming with hope and optimism as it spans a full 10 minutes or so, ending with a massively extended outro and a blazing flute solo!  Who knew such a thing was possible!  The Dark Is Rising closes out the set, with a swirling intro delicately leading into a fragile piano, taking us back into the realms of fantasy once more, before culminating in a triumphant flurry of strobes and drums.  I’m still a little disappointed that I’ve been waiting since 2008 for the band to return to Montreal, only to hear half of the set, but at the same time, I feel massively grateful to have seen them at all. 

A special band worthy of closing out a special 2019 Jazz Fest.


  • 1.    The Funny Bird
  • 2.    Tonite It Shows
  • 3.    Central Park East
  • 4.    Snowflake in a Hot World
  • 5.    October Sunshine
  • 6.    A Man Needs a Maid (Neil Young cover)
  • 7.    Tides of the Moon
  • 8.    Diamonds
  • 9.    Holes
  • 10.  Goddess on a Hiway
  • 11.  Opus 40
  • 12.  The Dark Is Rising

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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