by Spencer LaChance
There was barely a crowd in The Sinclair when I got there ten minutes before the show was supposed to start. But by the time Gary War took the stage twenty minutes later, a decent amount of people had filed in. His music was a washed out whirlwind under vocals rendered unintelligible by effects, so he was a fitting opener for John Maus. Though a bit of a mess, War’s set got me grooving while I prepared for what was coming next. Maus’ drummer joined him while bass and synths played through the speakers, and although it would have been cool to see a full band join him, his set sounded good nonetheless. “Inna Witness” was a highlight that he played from his new album, Gaz Forth. Finding myself standing front row next to the speakers, War’s set was also quite loud. I was able to grab earplugs after he was done, and thank God I did.
As soon as John Maus took the stage, he let out a yell heard throughout the venue even though the mic was at his side. I knew that Maus put on a wild show, but I was still shocked seeing it in person. From the start, he was jumping around and howling every lyric. His music is fairly simple, effects-ridden, and slightly haunting synth-pop, but Maus performed it with more passion than the most revolutionary musicians could. After each song finished, he nearly collapsed and had to collect himself squatting next to an amp until he was ready to start the next one.
His set covered a wide range of his discography, most of which I hadn’t listened to. I recognized songs from his latest two albums, Screen Memories and We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. However, I was surprised to hear nearly half of the set come from his earlier work. I enjoyed it all even though there was a lot of the same. What Maus and his band lacked in variety, they made up for in their performances. Of course John took his act to the next level, but his band was great too. They played with the precision of studio musicians and even brought sheet music out onto the stage, the likes of which I had never seen at a show before. The keyboardist in particular, the man with the most important job, had a mountain of sheet music and impeccably laid the foundation for every song they played.
John Maus ended up screaming, writhing, tearing at his shirt, and punching himself in the face through fifteen songs. He ended his set with an electrifying rendition of ‘Pets’ followed by an encore with ‘Believer,’ two of the night’s top performances. The show was quick and to the point; it ended early enough so I could catch my radio show afterwards (Roses & Thornes Mondays at 11pm). Instrumentally, this concert wasn’t anything too special, but John Maus himself made it one of the most unique show experiences I can remember. If you’re a fan of Maus’ music and have never seen him live, start keeping tabs on his tour because his live show puts the music in a whole other context, and it’s incredible.