2004 was supposed to be the farewell fo Dayton, Ohio rockers Guided By Voices. It was a rest well-earned; frontman Robert Pollard had recorded hundreds—nay, thousands—of songs in the thirty years that led up to that point, with an impressive discography of hundreds of records under dozens of names. The retirement announcement, while sad, wasn’t particularly unsurprising. To that end, the band scheduled a performance on Austin City Limits, a career highlight for most any band, and one particularly fitting for them. It would be the first—and only—televised full concert from one of the best bands of the era.
Because Pollard’s songwriting style has always veered towards brief blasts of sonic and lyrical wisdom, setlists would consist of dozens of songs. Even though the band’s 95-minute set was a bit longer than most performances on the show, it contained a whopping 30 songs. But what made this set so spectacular is how later-era songs such as “Girls Of Wild Strawberries,” “My Kind Of Solider,” and “The Best Of Jill Hives” sat nicely next to classic GBV hits like “Glad Girls,” “Game Of Pricks.” “Do The Earth” and “Gold Star For Robot Boy.”
But the best part about it is that even though this is a farewell performance, it’s never sad, depressing, or melancholy. If anything, it’s GBV at their most typical; drinking a lot, getting progressively drunker, looser, and hilarious, all while balancing some of the finest power-pop you’ll hear. Yes, they’re a mess, but they’re a loveable, professional mess, who gave it all for the sake of a good night out. Best of all, you can tell that Pollard is giving his all and having the time of his life, chuffed to be performing on such a venerated stage, and happy to be in front of an audience of loving, dedicated fans who know every single word to every single song, no matter how new or obscure they may be.
No wonder, then, that GBV just couldn’t quit us.
Guided By Voices: Live From Austin TX is available now from New West.
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