Love Really Is Stronger Than Witchcraft! (Robert Pollard San Francisco Show Review)
(photo courtesy of Rainbow Billy)
All I can say is, holy fucking shit- what a night! I have some other big news to report, but the concert comes first as promised. My ears are still ringing and I'm all worn out and weary on a cold drizzly Sunday. But memories of the music and fun from the show have me feeling totally renewed and pumped up. And several things conspired to make it an even more amazing and special show than usual, which is saying a lot.
I had read on Disarm The Settlers (join up at the link over there --->) that Manager-extraordinaire Rich T was in need of a projection screen for the West Coast tour dates. But, it wasn't until Friday that I had read the post and it took longer than expected to get permission to borrow the company screen. By the time I emailed Rich, he was already in LA doing the show.
Not hearing from Rich, I figured I would show up to the Independent early and see if I could get him the screen. But by the time I got there, Rich and Bob were back at the hotel already. So instead of watching me shiver out in the cold, the very cool manager of the Independent allowed me to wait inside as the band was finishing their soundcheck! I just leaned on the wall and tried to blend in. Bob wasn't there, but it was great to hear the band rip through Conqueror of the Moon with Jason on vocals. Then they put the finishing touches on Mute Superstar from Mag Earwhig, which was new to the setlist. They were struggling to match the album timing of the song, but later in the performance they nailed it. So, the soundcheck ended and I got kicked out by security! They asked me to wait elsewhere since Rich wouldn't be back for at least 20 minutes.
So as I was waiting at the coffee shop across the street, Jon Wurster came in for some pre-show sustenance. I didn't want to bug the dude while he was eating, so I left him in peace as I warmed up with some hot chocolate.
Twenty minutes later, I was back in front of the club and the van pulled up. And much to my surprise, Bob, Chris Slusarenko and Pete Jamison all hopped out! As far as I knew, Bob's relationship with former manager Jamison was rocky at best. (CORRECTION: Wasn't Pete Jamison, probably Hunior that I saw- my bad!) I chatted with Rich and as it turned out, they didn't need the screen after all. But it was no problem and I was glad to provide backup if they needed it.
Before long I was in the club and I picked up one of the new white tee-shirts and a super-rare gig poster before the show began. The shirt has a image of a girl on the front saying "Love Really Is Stronger Than Witchcraft!" with "Robert Pollard, 60 Assholes and a Piss Bucket Tour 2006" on the back- good shit (soon to be available at Rockathon). The gig poster is great too- printed on heavy dark gray stock, it's an image of calico cat with lightning coming out of it's paws (see below). The guy said there were only 30 for sale and it was a mere 10 bucks. The opening act The High Strung were a pretty damn good pop rock outfit from Detroit, so it was not too bad waiting for Bob and the band.
Hugging the stage in front of Jason and Dave, my ears were blasted by kick-ass bass and guitar all night. My shirt was literally blowing in the bass wind. And the Ascended Masters were tight I tell you, tight! Jon's drumming brings some major propulsion, and the first time ever addition of live keyboards from Tommy worked amazingly well. And Bob was in fine form, strong of voice and with more energy and kick than I'd seen in a long time (was Bob kidding when he said he was contemplating quitting drinking?). I suspect he is as excited about his new music as the hardcore fans are.
The main set was typical of the rest of the tour, with most of From A Compound Eye featured alongside four Normal Happiness songs. I almost got kicked in the face when Jason jumped forward, boot out for Denied when the band joins in, but I was too rocked to care! My favorite songs live were the same ones I love on the record- Conqueror of the Moon (goosebumps), Hammer In Your Eyes, I'm a Widow (raw power), Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft and Dancing Girls (unreal live, better than the album version for sure). Plus they jammed for a long time on The Numbered Head, for all us SF hippies (ironically getting a big applause). We were also treated to Maggie Turns to Flies (just amazing- consider my mind blown!), Make Use (also one of my all time favorites, balls-out awesome), 7th Level Shutdown (a more rockin' interpretation of the album version), Get Under It, Choking Tara, Little Lines (oh yeah!) and Look At Your Life, plus the aforementioned Mute Superstar. And the Normal Happiness songs all sounded very melodic and poppy, which means I will be loving Normal Happiness long time.
Unfortunately, the crowd at the Independent was pretty sleepy so I was glad to be with the hardcore faithful up front. I had a fucking great time, throwing up fists and dancing and if the SF hipsters weren't into the new stuff, fuck them! Of course, the crowd suddenly came alive for the all GBV encore. But I had fun pogo-ing along with the moshing masses for the "hits". The band ripped through Girls of Wild Strawberries, The Brides Have Hit Glass (new to the setlist?), Game Of Pricks (always great), Sad If I Lost It, Gold Star For Robot Boy, My Kind of Soldier and Don't Stop Now before finishing up at around 1 in the morning.
After the show, I got another chance to chat with Rich before hitting the bricks for my home in the woods. Thank you as always to Bob, the Ascended Masters, Rich T, and the GBV family for an amazing night. My first Bob show since New Year's Eve 2004 in Chicago and it felt like Night of The Living Dead, in a sense. After the final show I didn't know whether I would ever see Bob perform again, much less with a brilliant new band and renewed energy. Never Gonna Have To Die indeed. Long Live Bob!