LIVE: Miracle Legion @ The Linda, 7/14/16

Review by Steven Stock
Video by Christopher Brown

“We played this measly town many times. This will be one of the times we played here.” – Mark Mulcahy onstage at The Linda prior to Miracle Legion’s encore

Okay, I’ll admit it: I had forgotten just how wonderful Miracle Legion’s music can be. After all, it’s been 30 years since I first encountered the band’s stunning six-track debut EP The Backyard. Back then their chiming guitar-driven pop music sounded like an anachronism to some of my synthesizer-loving friends. “How can you listen to that old-fashioned shit?” they’d ask as I played mix tapes featuring Miracle Legion, R.E.M., Aztec Camera, the Church and the Go-Betweens.

Times change, but Miracle Legion really hasn’t (much), and the quartet sounded fresh, alive and extremely relevant to a near-capacity crowd at The Linda last month, the second date of their first tour in the not-so-new millennium. Mark Mulcahy on vocals (and occasional guitar/harmonica/whistling) and the amazing Mr. Ray Neal on guitar both sounded great.

The “new” rhythm section (they joined after 1989’s Me & Mr. Ray) of drummer Scott Boutier and bassist Dave McCaffrey propelled the songs (18 of ‘em in 85 flawless minutes) without any unneeded fills or flash.

Highlights included The Backyard’s “Closer to the Wall”; “Mr. Mingo” from 1987’s Surprise, Surprise, Surprise; Me & Mr. Ray’s irrepressible “You’re the One Lee”; “So Good” from 1992’s Drenched; and the wry “Accidently On Purpose” from their 1996 swansong Portrait of a Damaged Family.

The latter has recently been reissued by Mulcahy’s Springfield, Mass.-based Mezzotint label, but all of Miracle Legion’s earlier work is sadly out-of-print, tied-up by Rough Trade’s bankruptcy and Morgan Creek’s legal death-grip on Drenched.

Mulcahy is quite a character, although he doesn’t indulge in much between-songs chatter. It was refreshing to see someone onstage who didn’t seem to care whether or not he looked cool. During the instrumental break on “Out to Play” Mulcahy danced around onstage with both arms extended stiffly in front of him, hands clasped together at waist level. The music had clearly transported Mulcahy to a happy realm where self-consciousness was banished. It was a little awkward and yet also very endearing, honest and uninhibited – much like Miracle Legion’s delightful music.

Country Boy
Out to Play
Snacks and Candy
Gone to Bed at 21
Even Better
The Backyard
Old and New
Accidentally on Purpose
Mr. Mingo
So Good
All for the Best
Closer to the Wall
You’re the One Lee
The Ladies from Town

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