Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mae: Goodbye, Goodnight Tour

This was a concert five and a half years in the making.

(That's longer than Isoceleria has been around!)

Ever since March 2005, The Everglow has been at or very near the top of my list of favorite albums.  It's nearly impossible to describe why--I've tried in the past and failed miserably every time.  But it probably has something to do with it being a really, really good album.  The musicianship is outstanding, the scale and execution of the concept are impressive, and the emotion that drives the album (avoiding both traps of being either hipster-ironic-tongue-in-cheek or over-produced-insincere) is genuine.  It definitely has something to do with some personal factors that are even more difficult to express.

Yet, despite my five-year love affair with The Everglow, I never managed to see Mae in concert until last Wednesday.  Mae has been back and forth with their releases since then, but nothing could erase the brilliance of The Everglow, and their enthusiasm and sincerity always seemed like they would produce an excellent live show.  And somehow, I've managed to miss them in concert despite adoring their music since I've known what a concert was--not for lack of trying.

When I found out that Mae was coming to Bottom of the Hill, which has recently become my very favorite place in the Bay area to see a concert, there was no question that I'd be at that concert.  And when Mae started throwing around phrases like "Goodbye, Goodnight," suggesting that this might be their last tour as a band, I jump in it.

Opening were Windsor Drive and Terrible Things, both of which turned out to be reasonable openers for Mae.  Windsor Drive was a fine complement to Mae's gentler, acoustic side, while Terrible Things more closely matched rocker-Mae (or closer still, Anberlin).  I hadn't heard of either band prior to the concert, but seeing both bands turned out to be worth my time, something that can't necessarily be said of every opener out there.

Mae themselves turned out to be everything I've been waiting five and a half years for them to be.  Despite some fluctuation and unfortunate drama with their personnel over the last year or two, Goodbye, Goodnight Mae is Everglow Mae--and that's the only way we fans would have had it.  They were enthusiastic, energetic, and obviously grateful to their fans (to the point of taking pictures of the audience after the concert), and they sounded remarkably cohesive for having not really toured together as a band for years.

While halfway a tour in support of the (E)vening EP, Mae's set list featured songs from every album and every era of their music.  The concert was unsurprisingly Everglow-heavy--apparently there are many, many Mae fans out there who feel the same way I do about that album--with about half to two thirds of the album getting played.  We also got to hear a little over half of Destination: Beautiful, the band's first album, from all the way back in 2003.  The rest of the concert was a smattering of Singularity, the seasonal EP's, and a couple of B-sides/rarities.

Prior to the concert, I made a list of ten songs, saying if Mae was going to play just ten songs for me, I'd want it to be these ten.  I hit seven out of ten: "Embers and Envelopes" and "Sun" from Destination: Beautiful and "Suspension," "Someone Else's Arms," "The Ocean," "Breakdown," and "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making" from The Everglow.  They left off "All Deliberate Speed" from D:B (which surprised me a little, because I think it's a well-known song, and it features a sing-along-ready chorus) and "The Fisherman Song" and "Boomerang/Two Birds" from (M)orning (which surprised me less, since they're both sort of niche songs that undoubtedly took center stage at the Morning tour last year).

Hands down, the best chunk of the concert was the encore.  The main body of the concert had somehow gone by without either "Sun" or "Someone Else's Arms," so during the "let's clap for five minutes even though we all know the show isn't really over" session, I turned to a friend and asked "There's no way Mae play a concert and doesn't play 'Sun,' right?"  A minute later, I got my wish, as Dave Elkins climbed back on stage with an electric-acoustic guitar, smiled, and said "Here's an old one."

As I stood there thinking the concert couldn't get any better, the entire band rejoined Elkins on the stage and launched into the piano-heavy "We're So Far Away".  It's a nice track, and I'm not about to turn down anything from The Everglow, but it seems an odd track to include by itself in a time-constrained encore situation.  But just as it does on the album, the concert "We're So Far Away" was really just a buildup to the sheer exuberance of "Someone Else's Arms," and there was no better way that Mae could have ended the show.

Mae gave its fans more than an hour and a half of music that night, and it was an excellent capstone to the five and a half years of music they've given me already.  If Mae decides to keep on making music after this tour is finished, I'll of course eagerly await it.  But if not, it was a fitting way to say goodbye and goodnight.

Currently listening: "Mass Romantic," the New Pornographers

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