Upon entering the Nov. 19 show, patrons were told that if they took pictures, they would be ejected immediately. Credit: Nolan Gawron/Metro
It’s been 11 years since Hope Sandoval last played Boston. It was August of 2002, and the sultry chanteuse and lead singer of Mazzy Star was in town premiering her self-titled solo project at the Paradise — and it couldn’t have gone worse. Complaining about the sound, she left the stage more than once, coming back to increasingly unruly, heckling fans and feedback problems that were never solved.
Returning to the scene of the disaster last night with her band Mazzy Star, Sandoval and company wowed the sold out crowd and redeemed with flawless form and surprisingly stoic composure. Touring in support of their recent release Seasons of Your Day, their first recording in 17 years, both the record and their performance prove that Mazzy Star has sustained the sound of the psychedelic dream pop that has kept them fresh in the hearts of fans for decades.
Gone were the sound troubles from a decade ago. Every note echoed in perfect clarity. While the band’s sound was sparse at times, Sandoval’s voice can fill up the room.
With six musicians playing musical chairs throughout the night, the band’s 90-minute set generously picked songs from their four-album discography and each track came off as perfectly as the records. Each smack of the tambourine, every slur of the pedal steel and every heavy hit of the kit seemed on time and necessary.
Taking stage to a backing track of an ethereal murmur, the mood was set. With just a couple of candles and projected visuals lighting the stage, the band remained barely visible creating an air of mystery and forcing the focus to the music itself.
Starting quietly with “Looking Down from the Bridge,” the final track from 1996’s Among My Swan, a church-like organ billowed in the background while the delicate quietude showcased Sandoval’s sultry croon, which sounded as strong and seductive as ever.
Drifting into “Cry, Cry,” a pedal steel and Sandoval’s reverbed harmonica warmed the room into a blissful reverie that transported many of us back almost 20 years.
While the focus always seems to be on Sandoval and her voice, David Roback’s varied guitar styles always loomed beautifully in the background. From the intimate acoustic duet with Sandoval on “Into Dust," the intense pluck-and-slide on “She Hangs Brightly” to the unforgettable slide on “Fade into You,” Roback’s sound escorted Sandoval’s vocal stylings through their moody blues.
Ending the first set with the loud and distorted “Blue Flower,” the band reclaimed the stage for two encores. Highlighting their range, the band began with the quiet new track “California” and ended with the lengthy “So Tonight That I Might See” with Sandoval’s poetic spoken-word delivery riding along Roback’s searing guitars.
While she remained in place most of the night, she moved the room with her vocals. Besides some quiet “Thank yous” the only thing she said between songs was “Where’s that goddamn whiskey I ordered.” I don’t think it ever arrived.