Last night at the Grog Shop, Mister Heavenly headlined a mister-heavy lineup, which also included punk upstarts Mr. Dream and Cleveland DJ Mister Bradley P.
Mister Heavenly is fronted by Nick Thorburn of Islands and Ryan Kattner (aka Honus Honus) of Man Man, with Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse. Early concerts added actor Michael Cera on bass, a real-life extension of his Scott Pilgrim role.
Last night's performance didn't suffer because there was no bassist, but Cera's presence would have surely boosted ticket sales.
The members' respective main gigs have lost some of their early spark, most notably, Islands' prog-pop has largely stagnated, modern-day Modest Mouse has nothing on when they used to "talk shit about a pretty sunset," and even Man Man's trashcan carnival barkers aren't quite what they once were.
But there's a lot of promise in this new project, which dips back to an early rock & roll aesthetic, offering an approach they've dubbed "doom-wop." The lyrics of these love songs would be well-suited for the '50s and '60s.
The band's chemistry and professionalism elevated them far above a one-off project used to kill time, and their sound was far more precise onstage than it is on their uneven debut album, Out of Love. Thorburn's high-flying guitar bounded around Kattner's keyboard theatrics, as Plummer kept pace perfectly.
A lean 45-minute set meant they played every song from their debut, including fan-favorite "Bronx Sniper," as well as a cover of Cody Chesnutt's neo-soul "Look Good in Leather," which meshed well with their sound.
The encore was introduced by Thorburn as a Mr. Dream cover despite being the Misfits' "Hybrid Moments," where Kattner took to spitting his way through the crowd.
It was a fitting remark anyway, as Mr. Dream, at best, channeled early Fugazi and post-hardcore, coupled with the crunch of '90s alt-rock.
One track presented the staccato start/stop thrust of Shellac's "Prayer to God," yet lacked the same impact. Look for this band to fully-form in the future. Until then, at least one of the Misters really delivered. —Michael Tkach
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