In the summer of 2006, Isaac Brock of Northwest indie rock kingpins Modest Mouse made a bad decision — he replaced guitarist Dann Gallucci with ex-Smiths axeman Johnny Marr.
Saturday night, at the first New York concert in nine years from Gallucci’s other band, Seattle’s hardcore punks Murder City Devils (who reunited in ’06 after his departure from MM), the tattoo-covered rocker reminded the audience of just how hard Brock should be kicking himself in the head.
While Marr has plenty pop chops and star power, Gallucci — who played off and on with MM since 1995 — has a grittier punk ferocity. And while his contributions on record are slim (he only played on two — 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West and 2004’s breakout Good News for People Who Love Bad News, on which he shares songwriting credits), live he was the unsung enabler of MM’s frantic sound, adding to the legend of their live sets.
Gallucci was indispensable to Modest Mouse, as he was Friday night.
During the 75-minute show at Time Square’s 2,100-capacity Nokia Theatre, the skinny guitarist churned out cutlery-sharp riffs from his Fender Telecaster on “Broken Glass,” from 1997’s self-titled debut, and the slow-burning epic “Midnight Service at the Mutter Museum,” off the band’s final studio release, 2001’s Thelema EP.
The dude has range — the classic rock-indebted “Fields of Fire”; the fuzzy punk blast “Rum to Whiskey” — and it’s all delivered with ferocious precision.
Gallucci didn’t say a word throughout the show. He left that to Spencer Moody — and the bearded singer led with force.
His guttural shouts didn’t crack, even as he shoved the mic into his mouth and crowd-surfed during “Dancing Shoes” and “Johnny Thunders.” Coady Willis (also of Big Business and the Melvins) was the band’s spine, pounding out drum rolls, as Leslie Hardy (who briefly played bass for Hole in 1993) added a sinister quality with creepy organ melodies.
The show was a stop on a short East Coast tour, their first since splitting in 2001.
In their ’90s glory days, MCD opened for big acts like Pearl Jam and At The Drive-In, but never broke into the mainstream or saw much commercial success. Their reunion, however, is seeing the band headline bigger venues — including a spot on the bill at last year’s Coachella. Their following is growing — and it’s easy to see why.