You don't go to a Guided by Voices show for a polished example of rock professionalism, but even those familiar with the Ohio quintet's unhinged antics had to be surprised when Thursday's Lee's Palace set fell apart before it even got going.
With a guitar amp fried, it seemed dicey whether GBV would ever get out of the blocks. No need to panic, though. While technicians scurried around, the 15-minute delay just gave singer Robert Pollard a chance to pound back three more beers and talk trash about Lou Barlow and Wayne Coyne.
Any rumours that Guided by Voices had somehow cleaned up in the wake of their Ric Ocasek-produced Do The Collapse disc were squashed immediately. With five cases of beer and a bottle of bourbon to share between five people, and 30 or so song titles scribbled on a 2-by-4-inch piece of scrap paper, Pollard and crew were in vintage apocalyptic form.
As the singer called out song titles and their album affiliations like an auctioneer, his well-oiled band, including Toronto stick handler Jon McCann flailing away impressively, bashed through two and a half hours of music for a roomful of people who knew every word to every 70-second song. Diversions through Baba O'Riley and Sabbath's Paranoid -- touchingly retitled Finished With My Woman -- were spot-on, and the quintet inexplicably got tighter the longer the set wore on and the emptier the shelf of beer became.
In fact, Pollard seemed to become more coherent the more he drank. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for bassist Tim Tobias and guitarist Nate Farley, who appeared on the verge of a coma but still managed to hit all the right notes.
Anything less would have been disappointing.
GUIDED BY VOICES, at Lee's Palace, September 28. Tickets: $16. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNNN