NEW YORK Guided by Voices covered songs by the Who, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones in a surprise concert Tuesday night at the storied punk club CBGB, the site of their first New York show in 1993.
The show, which the band played under the name Homosexual Flypaper, marked one of the final performances of powerhouse drummer Jim Macpherson, who is leaving the band.
"It's been about 25 years since we played CBGB I think we played with Television last time," singer Robert Pollard said jokingly from the stage, referring to one of the bands that established CBGB's reputation in the 1970s. He then began the show with a hoarse-voiced version of "A Salty Salute," from GBV's beloved 1995 album, Alien Lanes.
From there, Pollard led the band through a nearly two-hour set that included cover tunes, GBV favorites and a few songs from last year's Do the Collapse, including the ballad "Hold on Hope" (RealAudio excerpt) also the title track of a recent EP and "Teenage F.B.I." (RealAudio excerpt).
The show also focused heavily on Pollard's recent album with GBV guitarist Doug Gillard, November's Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, which hearkened back to the band's original lo-fi sound with such songs as "Soul Train College Policeman."
Pollard, who is the Dayton, Ohio, band's only original member, drank several beers and smoked innumerable cigarettes as he ran gamely through his repertoire of mock arena-rock stage moves, which, as usual, included leaps, high kicks and microphone whirls.
Despite the beers and the antics, Pollard's vocals remained strong throughout. "You think he's going to forget the lyrics, but he never does," said one fan, Kevin Dugan, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident. "He can really sing people forget that."
"Let's do 'Baba O'Riley,' " Pollard said early on, and following his lead, the band broke into a rough, clearly unrehearsed punk rock take on the Who staple. Macpherson pummeled his kit, doing his best Keith Moon, while guitarists Gillard and Nate Farley grinned widely as they each aped Pete Townshend's windmills on the song's power chords.
GBV displayed more polish on a hard-hitting, nearly note-perfect version of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust."
The band paid homage to yet another British rock act with a verse of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," which led directly into GBV's own "Your Name Is Wild."
Earlier in the day, the band, backed by a string section, taped a performance of "Hold on Hope" for NBC-TV's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."