In the summer of 2014, Modest Mouse partnered with Brand New to perform in Queens at the Forest Hills Stadium. I was there. It was a fine show. Though, as pretentious as this may sound, Modest Mouse’s effortless credibility belongs in Brooklyn. On July 22, the Washington rockers arrived in Park Slope’s Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park’s Bandshell.
Their show was preceded by the similarly cool New York mood rockers Interpol who played at the bandshell on July 21. Despite Interpol’s undeniable quality and musicianship, they lack the heart, effort and humanity of Modest Mouse. A perfect example of this came just moments into the band’s set when singer Isaac Brock treated the audience to the story of how his finger was injured. He mused that even playing the concert had been in doubt because of the sprain. It might seem like a throwaway story to most, but to some it’s the kind of intimate moment that concertgoers don’t forget.
He may have recently celebrated his 40th birthday but Brock still carries all the energy of a man half his age. His bizarre banter was in evidence throughout the show, none more so than during the band’s encore when Brock stopped in the middle of “Paper Thin Walls” to ask the audience if they would like the band to stop. “A new song or finish this song?” He asked the bemused crowd, Brock then reminded the crowd that the second half of the song is exactly the same as the first. Without waiting for a proper reply, the band slammed back into the second half, which was the same as the first but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The 21 song setlist carried perfectly through the warm, humid, park setting. People want to hear anthems like “Float On” when they come to outdoor concerts in the summer. Songs that people can lose their minds too while hugging strangers. This note was hit perfectly with the rendition of the aforementioned “Float on.”
The band hit all of the high points of their long career, offering the hit “Dashboard” relatively early at sixth in the set. It could be argued that the band started off so hot with “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” and “Bury Me With It” really landing hard with the audience. They finished on a reliable favorite, “The Good Times Are Killing Me,” from the band’s breakthrough 2004 album Good Times for People Who Love Bad News.
When I saw Modest Mouse in Queens in the summer of 2014 the band hadn’t released an album in seven years. Now, they’re touring on the strength of Strangers to Ourselves, which was released in March 2015. There was definitely a different intensity about Brock and the gang this time, without losing any playful sensibilities. If they can retain this mix for the rest of their career, the best is yet to come. In their review of Modest Mouse’s show in Boston the night after the Prospect Park gig, the Boston Globe wrote that the group “will never be a slick band.” Based on the show I saw, and thousands others sang along with, that’s no bad thing.
You can read the full setlist from the show here.