Mew fans know that listening to the music is an experience in itself.
Mew’s sound is multi-faceted with layers of polyrhythmic and powerful instrumentals, juxtaposed by steady but sweet falsetto vocals. The myriad sounds are captivating and catchy, though sometimes unpredictable. Often, they boast unexpected song structures, all the more adding to their allure. And just when you thought you were mentally prepared to witness this all live, Mew throws in a streaming display of abstract graphics, all by lead singer and creative mastermind Jonas Bjerre.
As a line began to wrap around The Fillmore on Tuesday, many discussed their favorite albums, their last time seeing the band, and stories of how they became a “frenger” (the unofficial title for Mew fans, meaning “not quite a friend, but not quite a stranger”).
When the dimmed stage lights cued for Mew to start, cheers permeated throughout the venue and the band assumed position one by one. First came drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen. Then guitarist Mads Wegner and keyboardist Nick Watts. You could feel the anticipation stirring from the lingering roars of the crowd. Bassist Johan Wohlert walked on. And finally, Bjerre took center stage.
Projections of celestial patterns burst through the darkness as Mew broke into “In a Better Place.” Backed by waves of ethereal sounds, the lyrics assured the crowd of brighter times to come. “I know that we shall find happiness in a better place,” sang Bjerre. And at least for me, the happiness began right there.
Next up was And The Glass Handed Kites gem, “Special.” The stage emanated a fiery red hue that fit the fueled riffs driving the song’s energy. “Special” flowed into “Zookeeper’s Boy,” which wound back to delicately sung vocals. Images of silhouetted giraffes and ostriches appeared on screen in sync with the equally curious lyrics:
Tall just like a giraffe
You have to climb to find its head
But if there’s a glitch
You’re an ostrich
You’ve got your head in the sand
The remainder of the show was peppered with songs from all over Mew’s catalog. Whether your favorite album is +-, No More Stories…, or Frengers, Mew gave their fans a taste of everything. The crowd showed their thanks through ceaseless dancing and singalongs to newer tunes “Satellites” and “Candy Pieces all Smeared Out,” and older favorites “Introducing Palace Players” and “Snow Brigade.”
The first set simmered to a close with “Carry Me to Safety,” a tender ballad that features twinkling instrumentals very much personifying the feeling of safety. The moment Bjerre crescendos to sing “A life to live as me, a moment that feels free,” felt like a catharsis that allowed everyone in the room to take in the magic, the sentiment, and the beauty of it all.
But the show didn’t stop there. Mew performed two encores, the first featuring “Nothingness and No Regrets,” “Am I Wry? No,” and “156.” “Nothingness and No Regrets” was accompanied by colorful illustrations of blossoming plants that went along with the sweetly arpeggiated melody. Meanwhile, the punchy, powerful “Am I Wry? No” and “156” had images that switched from a shower of sparks, to a dark forest, to a cat playing the violin.
Mew devoted the second encore to “Comforting Sounds,” which takes the cake for the most bittersweet cap to a good night. A starry backdrop illuminated against silhouettes of Bjerre, Wegner, and Watts, who carefully began to unravel what eventually becomes an epic seven minute masterpiece. As the rest of the band stepped out, Wohlert thanked San Francisco for coming out on a Tuesday. And then came the outro. Like the uprising of a celestial tide, Mew launched into a grandiose soundscape that felt like time traveling between whimsical daydreams and heart-filling nostalgia. But it’s not excessive, nor drawn out. It’s careful and tender. It’s comforting.
Mew manages to say so much through just sounds. And witnessing it all before you is an otherworldly experience that’s as close to real magic as it gets.
MONAKR opened up the show with a set that blended folk, blues, and indie pop together. Hailing previously from recognizable projects such as Hey Champ and Gemini Club, the Chicago-based group was met with enthusiastic vibes from the audience.
Words and photos by Rianna Chloe Catajan.