R. Stevie Moore

Live at Mercury Lounge

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An audio vérité document of R. Stevie Moore's first headlining New York City show in years, Live at Mercury Lounge is 54 minutes of Moore at his most elemental. Sitting at center stage with just an acoustic guitar and a music stand, Moore runs through 18 songs dating back to the '70s (an excellent version of his early signature song "Dates" and the gloomy "Steve," which uses his lower vocal register to very nice effect), throwing in a sly version of Sparks' synth pop-era obscurity "The Decline and Fall of Me" for good measure. Some of the songs work better in this spare settings than others; the clangorous power pop rocker "Love Is Dead, Pal" doesn't come over in a solo acoustic setting, and it's not helped by Moore's peculiar phrasing of the vocals, but a couple of brief snatches of the dreamy "It's What You Do (It's Not What You Are)" are just lovely. The set proper ends with a terrific version of Moore's sunny mid-'80s psychedelic pop charmer "Colliding Circles," preceded by a humorous story about how historian Martin Lewis had recently admitted that he had made up that song title, along with three others, for a Beatles discography in the early '70s, whereupon they quickly became the Holy Grail of obsessive collectors. (Moore had recently appeared with Lewis at a Beatles convention, performing the songs he had written to fit those titles, some of which had been appearing on Beatles bootlegs since the '80s.) For an encore, Moore moves back to the drum kit left behind by the opening band, Circus Guy, two members of which then clamber on-stage for a ragged improvisation that recalls some of the Bevis Frond's more formless moments. The sound quality is near bootleg level at a few points, but the offhand charm of Moore's performance makes Live at Mercury Lounge a winner for longtime fans.

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