Music review: Mazzy Star performs at the Fillmore

Music review: Mazzy Star performs at the Fillmore

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Mazzy Star (Credit: Mazzy Star)
WASHINGTON, January 30, 2014 – The subtle lighting on the stage at the Fillmore in Silver Spring Maryland only slightly obscured Mazzy Star’s singer Hope Sandoval. Along with the stage arrangements, the evening’s look and feel provided Mazzy Star with a dark and brooding atmosphere, conjuring up images of coven rituals in their recent appearance here.

Although this setup was actually in stark contrast to their actual output, it set a moody tone that seemed a good match for the audience, which was there to watch this band perform their first new material since 1996.

Mazzy Star mainly revolves around the duo of singer Hope Sandoval and guitarist David Roback. The band’s actual formation is somewhat hazy. But Sandoval’s and Roback’s collaboration is rooted back in the 1980s. It’s this kind of lengthy history and tradition that gives Mazzy Star something of a cult status today, enabling them to continue drawing significant audiences when their first incarnation as alternative darlings in the early to mid ‘90s more or less drew to a close.

Following that period, the late ‘90s and the ’00 decade are almost devoid of Mazzy Star sightings, even though, individually, they continued to be productive. They simply were not much in evidence as a live, performing group.

But their re-materialization on stage after a more or less fifteen year period of relative obscurity lent a certain air of mystery to Mazzy Star’s live performance at the Fillmore. True, Sandoval and Roback by no means were hiding from the public. But they’ve been hard to find long enough to create a great deal of curiosity and uncertainty among their current audiences.

Even with their new album, “Seasons of Your Day,” being released this year, fans and would-be fans are still looking for more clarity on Mazzy Star’s current direction, not to mention whether they’ll get to see this band again anytime soon.

This uncertainty gives their current show a different kind of energy than Mazzy Star could have generated years ago when they were at their peak. For that reason, many in the audience viewed this performance as a one-time chance to see a band that long inspired a great many powerful emotions, giving their current outing a greater level of importance than they might even have realized or intended.

What helped their Fillmore set even further than this sense of mystery – as this is the first time they’ve played “Seasons of Your Day” songs live, at least in the DC area – is that Mazzy Star seems to be picking up where they left off the last time they were officially a band. Nothing about their new songs suggests they’ve evolved into a different band or are putting out a different sound, or even that there’s been a 17-year gap between their new album and its predecessor. That meant that those who showed up wanting to see the Mazzy Star they had built up in their heads weren’t disappointed.

Given that sense of anticipation, there wasn’t much for Mazzy Star to get wrong.  With Sandoval and Roback being the real driving force behind the band, picking things up where they left off seems relatively easy, assuming the two are back in sync again.

Roback’s arrangements are still notable for their stripped down, dream-like, psychedelic approach, utterly haunting in its simplest form. For her part, Sandoval builds off the musical aesthetic with her unique vocal prowess, which she wraps, paradoxically, in an aura of seeming shyness that reaches out to bring the audience inside.

The majority of the Fillmore audience was clearly eager to see Mazzy Star, whether they punctuated that phrase with “again” or “for the first time.” They didn’t disappoint, emotionally resonating with the audience bringing to a close the uncertainty that developed during their lengthy absence from the public eye.

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