Review by Darren Gawle
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
You don't have to be "legally retarded" (copyright Robert Dayton, 1997) to feel all warm and fuzzy about Rob Pollard & Co. taking Superconductor under their wing over the past couple of years. Superconductor may never sell as many records as the Tea Party, but at least they'll end up with their integrity intact by bypassing Canada's corpse-eating music industry schlock-fest altogether. Having toured extensively in support of Guided by Voices as one of Rob Pollard's favourite bands in the whole world, Superconductor are also finally tight enough to play nuggets like "There Goes Helen" and "Nobody's Cutie" without sounding like they'd only managed one rehearsal. Which used to be the case, apparently.
So with the Starfish's stage surprisingly roomy considering the seven bodies on it, Superconductor takes their newfound confidence and runs with it. Carl Newman hits the high notes like he never could and their drummer flails away like Vancouver's answer to Keith Moon. At last, a Superconductor performance which reflects the potential they've shown since Heavy With Puppy.
Guided by Voices are more indie cock than indie rock, and if that bothers you then maybe you'd best step outside. There are not many bands around whose recordings are so EQ-challenged that through the PA at the Starfish they sound positively stadium-friendly, but opener "Your Name is Wild" proves that, inside every Bee Thousand in GBV's discography, there's a Live At Budokan struggling to get out.
Truth be told, Rob Pollard is a walking enigma -- how can a guy that drunk sing in key and execute such precise karate kicks? How can a guy that old not be a member of Trooper and not be playing the Breakers in Point Roberts? And where does that fucker get off calling us 'kids' anyhow? Given B.C.'s legal drinking age, though, Pollard may indeed be old enough to have sired about one-quarter of the audience here tonight.
This is not the 'classic' GBV lineup of Propeller and Bee Thousand, but it is the one that seems set to lead us into the new millennium. So we'd struggle to recognize four fifths of Guided By Voices even if they walked up and bought us a drink, but close your eyes and it really doesn't matter who's plugged in -- all the hits are out to paint the town red: "Shocker in Gloomtown," "Smothered in Hugs"? Long time no see! "Not Behind the Fighter Jet," "Lord of Overstock"? Thanks for coming out! "Hot Freaks," "My Valuable Hunting Knife"? Hey -- how's the wife and kids? Given that GBV's songs usually clock in at under two minutes, chances are you're going to hear at least some of what you came here hoping to -- although at a release rate of an album roughly every seven and a half months, most of your old favourites would have been dropped three tours ago.
Pollard carries on swinging his microphone as though in a rock & roll David and Goliath bout and shares some of the alleged 144 beers from GBV's rider with the young turks in the front row. And even with the treat of five encores ending with "Metal Mothers," the show's still over too early. If it means that I can still rock like Rob Pollard when I'm forty, then maybe growing older isn't such a bad prospect after all.
P.S. It was rumoured that after the Canadian government decided to levy a $400 surcharge on bands entering the country, Guided By Voices swore they'd never play here again. Don't ever think we didn't appreciate your making Vancouver an exception, guys... Thanks.
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