mewithoutYou - Newcastle, Australia
Ending their tour of Australia in Newcastle's Small Ballroom, Philadelphia's mewithoutYou took to the stage with a room full of local fans who seemed to know the lyrics to all the songs. Although not touring an album per se – their last release was the concept album Ten Stories two years ago – they are ready to release their sixth release later this year. This set, however, did not feature much new material with the bulk of the setlist drawn from the last release alongside numbers plucked from their ample back catalogue.
mewithoutYou are one of these bands that seem to morph with every album, and their current incarnation seems to have achieved a balance between Aaron Weiss's folk-sy lyrical aspirations with drummer Rick Manzotta's heavier influences. Weiss is quite an enigmatic frontman; filled with youthful energy, passion and heart on your sleeve sincerity he moves between post-hardcore shouting and yelling to a genuinely soulful voice. Though not the most technical singer, he still remains able to convey the essence of his lyrics in a manner not dissimilar to heavyweights like Dylan or Cohen. Manically jumping around the tiny stage, near colliding with his fellow musicians, he leaves broken percussion in his wake.
The five piece band whizz through as many tracks as their set time allows; stand out follows stand out ('Bear's Vision of St Agnes', 'Grist for the Malady Mill' and the acoustic encore of 'The Fox, The Crow, and the Cookie') but you wish they gave the audience a bit more time to bask in this rare opportunity to hear them. Yet it is in this environment where mewithoutYou transform a good song into great.
Hailing from a commune and endlessly touring the US in a vegetable oil-fuelled bus; fronted by a PhD student who will quote Sufi mystics, Hegel and William Blake with equal ease, you would be forgiven for thinking they sound dangerously like ... hippies. That they manage to retain this spontaneous drive whilst seeming very rooted in the terra firma, means they can eschew the hipster's darling label that some would unkindly want to apply to them. Maybe their lack of success outside of the US is down to mere geography? Or that they somehow don't fit easily into a neat category. A musical puzzle then, but one that somehow all falls into place.