TVD Live: Guided by Voices at the Black Cat, 10/19

They 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 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, Pollard may look like an out-to-seed golf pro who might gingerly be stepping into retirement, but he 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 China, Warp & 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 Daltrey 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.

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

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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