Mazzy Star at Ogden Theater, 11/10/13
No photography was permitted at the show last night, and that included cellphones.
At about the halfway through Mazzy Star's show last night at the Ogden Theatre, the stage went dark, and most of the band had left the stage. When the low lights came back on, they illuminated the forms of Hope Sandoval and David Roback, who gently plucked a familiar, incredibly fragile and evocative melody. It was "Into Dust," one of the band's most spare, yet most emotionally stirring, tracks from 1993's So Tonight That I Might See. Sandoval's voice, although intentionally not wide-ranging in its tonality, had an emotionally rich and expressive quality that turned subtlety and vulnerability into a statement of inner strength.
The set was pretty evenly balanced otherwise between songs from 1990's She Hangs Brightly, 1996's Among My Swan and the outfit's latest effort, Seasons Of Your Day, with a couple of more songs from So Tonight That I Might See.
The band started its set off with "Look On Down from the Bridge," with a pulsing bass line and a turning skyscape serving as a backdrop. The tastefully subtle use of wah on "Cry, Cry," meanwhile, gave the song an understated psychedelic quality, but it also fit with the controlled quaver that is at the edge of Mazzy Star's sound. Over the course of the set, it became apparent how much the band's music draws from the countrified psychedelia of Laureal Canyon pop of the early '70s.
Now it would be a stretch to call Mazzy Star country, but it also doesn't fit neatly into the dream pop or shoegaze box it has been placed in over the years. What sealed the country element here was Josh Yenne's lush and tuneful pedal steel work. Suki Ewers' keyboards were so understated, that it was sometimes hard to tell it was there until she dropped out of a song. Her playing gave the songs a certain, nearly unspoken, vibrant quality that makes the whole song a shine in a way you don't notice until it's not there.
"Halah" definitely had a gritty and edgier quality than on the studio version, and it certainly got an enthusiastic response from the crowd once the first bar of the song started up. Following that was the band's biggest hit, "Fade Into You." Some bands might have saved a song like that for the encore, but not Mazzy Star, who followed that number up with two of its finest songs, if not strictly hits, with the poetically sassy, Velvet Underground-esque "Blue Flowers" and the soulfully defiant "Disappear." After that set of songs, the band played one of its best newer songs, the sparely jangle-y "California." Mazzy Star may not have blazed like some rock and roll fire breathers but its vivid, hushed storytelling was the perfect music for a warm, midfall day.
Opening the show was Denver's Shady Elders, which was added as a replacement for the Entrance Band, which dropped off the bill. Shady Elders actually seemed a lot more fitting, as the band clearly has a lot more sonically in common with Mazzy Star. On this night, Britt Rodemich sounded more confident and comfortable in her skin than ever, as Casey Banker and Miles Eichner played sparkling, ethereal melodic rhythms and leads off each other. It was an interesting transformation for an already solid band.
Personal Bias: I loved Mazzy Star in the '90s, and was also a fan of Opal and the Rain Parade.
Random Detail: Ran into former French Chemists bassist Misun Oh at the show.
By the Way: Colm Ó Cíosóig of My Bloody Valentine is the bass player of Mazzy Star.
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