When Modest Mouse began their two night sold-out run at Webster Hall last Wednesday with the stretched-out slow burner "Of Course We Know" (off of their new full-length Stranger to Ourselves), it was quickly apparent they're not going anywhere anytime soon.
Strangers to Ourselves comes after an eight-year hiatus, and a decade after band-defining single "Float On," but Isaac Brock's trademark yelp-y, staccato voice only gets more refined with age. Now 39, Brock is still the same quirky songwriter he was in Good News for People Who Love Bad News' (2004) days but — as is the case with most veteran rock acts — the live set is strong, yet (sometimes) stiff. (They're not the type of band that shies away from performing old material live, though:"Black Cadillac," "Doin' the Cockroach," "Satin in a Coffin" and the aforementioned "Float On" all made appearances on the set list.)
While sometimes large — both in sound and lineup (at points, there were eight people onstage) — Brock keeps things down to earth, and recognizes rock's folk roots. During a beginning-of-the-set fog-enhanced intro, he mentioned that anyone can buy one for their house (instead of, say, basking in its mysterious glow). Tracks off the new LP like "King Rat" delved into their folksier roots, featuring brass horns and Brock on banjo.
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It was certainly an enjoyable, career-spanning, crowd-pleasing performance that left few stones unturned at set's end. That said, it definitely was the requisite performance from a successful and talented workhorse rock band. Were there any particular surprises? No. Did the fans care? Not at all.
If you're looking for a raucous, uplifting performance, you're probably in the wrong place (the encore did end with "Good Times Are Killing Me," after all). But if you're looking for heartfelt, sometimes gritty, alt rock cuts (or a trip down memory lane), Modest Mouse is still very much worth seeing live.