About a week before the start of this tour, the members of Isis announced that this would be their farewell, and the band would cease to exist thereafter. Though the Melvins weren't on the entire tour, they did share most of the second half of the dates, and in deference to the L.A.-based prog-metal combo, they ceded headlining duties to Isis. This was especially appreciated in Boston, which was Isis's original haunt prior to moving west. The Paradise was sold out for two nights well in advance, making for a proper send-off party.
I guess it's not too surprising that Isis did play three songs from their latest recording, Wavering Radiant, but as the tour took on a different flavor given the looming retirement, perhaps they should have done a bit more of a retrospective rather than devoting 60 percent of their set to songs from the last two records. The sprawling epics were generally well-received by the crowd, with shades of Neurosis, Mogwai and Opeth all represented by the fivesome, who played in relative darkness to accentuate the isolation and emotional pain of their songs. Still, there's a vocal minority who would have loved to hear songs from Mosquito Control or Red Sea; "Collapse and Crush" off of Celestial would have to suffice for early material. I do have to ask if the bass player has ever worn a shirt other than the black polo I've seen him wear twice on stage and in every single live photo.
Though Boston was the home base for Isis, it wasn't hard to figure out that a fair amount of people where there to see the Melvins, and the original ad listing suggested that Sunday would be the Melvins' turn to headline. Though they played before Isis, they did get a generous slot. Their blistering set was bookended by tracks from Lysol, starting with Flipper's "Sacrifice" and concluding with the ominous drones of "Hung Bunny" into "Roman Bird Dog." At one point I thought my phone was vibrating with an incoming call, but I realized that the critical frequency of their attack was making my camera's battery grip vibrate. God help those who were earplug-less.
This was my fifth time seeing the band in fewer than five years, and it's striking how fucking on they are, every single time. The extent to which Dale Crover and Coady Willis beat the living crap out of their kit, in total precision, never ceases to amaze; the crush of "Civilized Worm" or "Billy Fish" almost required that hard hats be issued to the crowd. If there's one thing that's predictable about the Melvins, it's their total inability to stay in one place and become defined by others' expectations. Though they didn't play current headscratchers, like the opaque cover of "My Generation" or the Irish folk solemnity of "P.G. X 3," they did bust out the martial beat/Marines chant of "The Water Glass" (the lead track off the new The Bride Screamed Murder) and played the surreal ballad "Black Bock," about caprine slaughter. One last thought: the fusion of King Buzzo and Crover with the Big Business guys is mainly noted for the impressive dual drum attack, but bassist Jared Warren brings a whole new dimension with his sync'd lead vocals on a lot of the songs. He's incredibly underrated.