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Live Review: Words cannot describe how good Mercury Rev were at Norwich Arts Centre - but we've given it a try anyway...

PUBLISHED: 11:16 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 12 December 2018

Mercury Rev performing at Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Steve Hunt

Mercury Rev performing at Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Steve Hunt

Steve Hunt

WHAT. A. GIG.

I'm not sure words can do justice to quite how much of a treat Mercury Rev at the Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday night were - but I'll give it a go.

Mercury Rev performing at Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Steve HuntMercury Rev performing at Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Steve Hunt

Epic. Awe-inspiring. Intimate. Intense. Delicious. Moving. Quirky. Funny. Extremely talented - these were just some of the words I furiously scribbled down during the American band’s superb 100-minute show.

The Rev were in Norwich as part of the tour to mark the 20th anniversary of their seminal 1998 album Deserter’s Songs. And given this is a band who have performed to thousands at festivals all over the world and have inspired and influenced some of the biggest artists of the last two decades, the 250 people gathered at the sold-out show no doubt left counting themselves as very lucky to have been there.

But the reverential surroundings of the arts centre, along with its fantastic acoustics, prove the perfect place to see a band who have gained an almost cult-like following.

That’s even more true given the show is semi-acoustic and, as explained at some length by lead singer Jonathan Donahue, is the songs performed as they were first played, stripped back, bare and untouched by glossy production methods.

Mercury Rev performing at Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Steve HuntMercury Rev performing at Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Steve Hunt

The audience was transfixed for the entire performance as the four-piece (semi-acoustic basically meant no drummer) tenderly performed classic song after classic song. It may be 20 years old but on the evidence of this gig it’s one album that has easily stood the test of time.

Highlights include Holes (with a killer trumpet solo), a gorgeous Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp, Goddess on a Hiway (sic) and Opus 40, which ends with a frenetic and transfixing rock out.

Each song is broken up with brilliant and often very funny stories from Donahue as to how they came about, during which the subjects range from upsetting neighbours, Britpop and how the Chemical Brothers saved their careers.

After two decades it’s brilliant to see a band not only so on fire and on form - but also clearly still having the time of their lives. Believe me, the audience were too.

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