Having been scarred by reading scathing live reviews from one particular reviewer back in the early 90s, last night’s Mazzy Star gig at the Danforth Music Hall, afforded me the chance to finally judge for myself.
I’ve loved the band right from the start of their 1990 debut, She Hangs Brightly, seduced by the bluesy slide-over acoustic guitars and Hope’s rich, yet lingering with despair vocals. For me they are the deep dark cousin of the Cowboy Junkies.
A strict no cameras or cellphones policy ensured an interesting evening. I have no problems with the policy – really, how many people who stand filming songs on their phone actually go home and watch them? Enforcement is virtually impossible, but this was a respectable crowd and I didn’t see one camera or phone go up in the air. Given the moody rep of the band, this could have been a disaster. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
Reactivated and touring behind Seasons of Your Day, the follow up to 1996’s Among My Swan, Mazzy Star sound exactly what you would expect of them in 2013. David Roback and Hope Sandoval were joined by two or three extra players, but to be honest the sparse lighting made it hard to tell what was happening onstage. But aside from the playing, there really wasn’t anything else happening. From the dark imagery that rolled on a backdrop screen, the stage was lit only by a handful of candles. The flicker of the flame would be the sole movement on stage.
This lent to the perfect dark atmosphere for Mazzy Star’s stark songs and it would be a test to the crowd to see to their end of the bargain. Surprisingly, they did, and at points, especially during an exquisite “Into Dust”, you could hear a pin drop along with the odd beer can.
The music played between songs lent a strange David Lynch like vibe to the show, possibly to offset the expectations Hope would address the crowd. Nonetheless, the sound was fantastic; Hope’s voice remains intact with no signs of age and Roback’s guitar work was as clear as one would hope. Also the best and quietest crowd I’ve been part of in a long time.
The band offered a few selections from each of their albums in their discography with highlights “Halah”, “California” a brooding “So Tonight That I Might See” and their almost-hit “Fade Into You” that inspired mass hysteria in the woman in front of me.
I was ready to leave after their first encore, as I thought that was it, but a large contingent from the almost sold out room became surprisingly rowdy and managed to convince the band to come back for a second and even third encore. This made Hope happy, managing to get out a couple of sentences, still not audible to me but she sure sounded chipper, relatively speaking.
And for the many like me who drifted back twenty years and basked in the soothing glow of the sounds of Mazzy Star that comforted us through the early nineties, why would you want it to end? It was testament to the respect between band and audience that they obliged. And that reviewer from twenty years ago? Dead wrong.