Published Oct 26, 2018Guided By Voices have their share of rabid fan bases all over the world, but few of those communities live up to the one that has grown in Toronto over the past three-plus decades. And yet this stop was the first club gig the lo-fi flag-bearers had played in 15 years. Of course, two hiatuses occurred in that period, and a late-night appearance at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival two years ago provided some relief, but their faithful appeared quite restless, chanting "GBV" as soon as the clock hit the advertised set time.
Walking out to a heroes' welcome, Bob Pollard and his latest gang of grizzled rockers — Doug Gillard, Bobby Bare Jr., Kevin March and Mark Shue — were decked in gold lamé bombers emblazoned with the title of their latest album, Space Gun, on the back. "I think this is the first time we've played an actual club show here in a very long time," said Pollard, teasing. "We're gonna do it for you all night long."
Announcing they had two brand new albums "in the can," he prepared the fans for a sneak peek. "Bear with us, we're gonna play some of those tonight. Some people dig that, some people don't," he said, adding a memory to when he saw Kiss do the same thing in 1973. "I dug it!"
But GBV mixed in plenty of oldies with the newbies, crowding unknowns like "King 007" and "Rally Boys" with classics like "Motor Away" and "A Salty Salute," to which he raised his Miller Lite during the "club is open" refrain. "Plenty more where that came from!" he announced.
A week away from his 61st birthday, Pollard showed few signs of aging. He broke out all of his usual rock moves: scissor kicks, microphone twirls, jazz hands, crane poses, and even a few crotch grabs, while throwing up high fives to every hand raised.
Big cheers came for older tunes like Earthquake Glue's "My Kind of Soldier" and of course, Bee Thousand's "I Am a Scientist," which was followed by new song "You Own the Night." "Here's another new one, but it's a good one," Pollard promised. "It has to be if it follows 'Scientist'!"
Every chance he got, he showed his love for the city. "Thank you, Toronto, you're an exceptional drinking partner... It's good to be back. A Thursday night in Toronto, hell yes!" And then encouraged fans to cross the border for the next night's show in Buffalo, adding, "I'll put you on the guest list — you plus 500. And Ric Ocasek plus 30," an obvious dig at the producer of 1999's Do the Collapse. Not long after they played that album's "Things I Will Keep," during which he ironically gave away his bottle of booze to the front row, who passed around swigs.
After playing "Bury the Mouse," Pollard admitted, "That's the last new one I promise," and he kept his word. Next came the Gillard-penned "I Am A Tree," followed by "Cut-Out Witch," which ignited a mini mosh pit. An emotional "Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory" brought the feels and a full-on love fest throughout the club. People were hugging and swaying together, including Bare Jr. and Shue on stage.
When they came back out for the encore, Pollard was quick to point out, "We only do one encore. But it's like 40 minutes though! A ten-song encore. Led Zeppelin only did a two-song encore." Of course, that would all be a lie, as they snuck in a brief second encore, but the band ripped through all the remaining hits: "Teenage FBI," "The Official Ironmen Rally Song," "Game of Pricks," "Gold Star For Robot Boy" and "Glad Girls," as well as a cover of the Who's "Baba O'Riley." Not wanting anything to go to waste, Pollard even emptied his beer cooler, handing out the Millers to the lucky hands within his reach.
Anyone proclaiming that "rock is dead" just isn't paying attention. Because for nearly three hours it was alive and scissor-kicking, coursing through the veins of the band they (repeatedly) call GBV!