TVD Live Shots: Mew at Royal Festival Hall, 9/4

“Absolutely fucking magical,” is what I heard over and over again as the crowd left the Mew show at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

After being rescheduled several times due to the ongoing pandemic, Mew took to the stage to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the landmark album And the Glass Handed Kites. In an era when albums are quickly becoming irrelevant, and music itself is treated as an “add-on” instead of the centerpiece, it’s more important than ever to recognize and celebrate the ones that “should have been bigger.” While the theater was full that evening, it begs the question, what place does this genre-defining masterpiece hold in the continued evolution of experimental pop?

Anyone present can immediately tell you that the music holds up like it was released yesterday. The fact that there was no opener and that the band played the record straight through nearly without interruption speaks volumes. The music becomes a soundtrack, and the visuals projected take you to another world—a strangely beautiful world that doesn’t make sense outside of the immediate space. Is it art or music? It’s both. Singer and guitarist Jonas Bjerre’s a bit older, a bit grayer, but his voice sounds as perfect as ever.

I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times over the years. It’s tough to get tired of this one as I seem to discover something new with each listen. The layers and complexities of the songs are stunning, and the melodies find a delicate balance between an earworm pop hit and progressive shoegaze. They did what Radiohead failed to do in their later years—push the boundaries but keep the hooks in place.

Fifteen years on, And the Glass Handed Kites remains a modern masterpiece that deserves to be propped up for future audiences. While the lighting was a bit of a nightmare for a photographer, I was lost in the music and smiling in my seat ninety percent of the time, on occasion looking around at the audience to confirm that they were enjoying this one as much as I was. Kites seemed to fly by much faster live than when listening to the record and the band came out to deliver an encore of fan favorites to wrap. This is not an easy feat by any means, and bassist Johan Wohlert explicitly called that out as a significant challenge of bringing this entire record to life on stage. Everyone in that room was overly thankful.

Mew released a special expanded edition of And the Glass Handed Kites, which can be found here.

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