Shit Happens

Still, the evening's most stunning moment was the crowd's, during a chorus of the hypnotic, emotional "Drive (Far Away)," a song about escaping something you can't name for somewhere you don't know. Suddenly all the kids in the audience screamed, "I don't care where, just far!" and threw themselves into some kind of convulsion that rippled the entire room like a storm at sea. In 10 seconds or so the flailing and hollering subsided to usual mosh-pit activity, but for a moment, there was the shock of thousands of people opening up their souls, expressing something, even if it was only their inability to explain it. —Lissa Townsend Rodgers

Frowny Frown

There's not much recorded evidence of Liam Hayes's nine-year career as Plush: one slow- striding, melancholic single in 1994, a second in 1997, and finally, this year, More You Becomes You, a sliver of an album (voice, piano, two minutes of French horn) that adds roughly five songs to his canon. In an equally rare live performance Saturday night at the Mercury Lounge, More You was revealed as his Smiley Smile: a slow, ghostly stand-in for an album too big to make, and maybe too personal to dwell on. (Reportedly, it's also a substitute for an unfinishable recording.) Played in its entirety as the first half of the show, it was a report from the cliff's edge. Hayes stabbed blindly at notes, his voice wobbling and cracking, snatching a tambourine abruptly or jabbing at an organ a little too hard, looking and sounding like he wasn't just craving oblivion but being sucked in by it. This wasn't watching a show, it was rubbernecking.

If Hayes had been on his own, it would have been too naked to bear, but this incarnation of Plush is a full band, with another keyboardist, a bass player of unwavering gravity, and a drummer who threw in grand power-ballad fills wherever they could be justified. They nursed More You's pained, gestural songs back to health, buoying up Hayes when he threatened to sink, and their dramatic here-comes-the- chorus flourishes made it clear that he is, in fact, a sensitive early-'70s balladeer, right down to the big frizzy hair that gives him a Frampton Comes Alive halo when he's backlit. Every time the band executed some classic Badfinger move, Hayes stood up a little straighter. By the end of the show, he was bold and steady, enough in control of his voice's leaps and curlicues that his earlier uncertainty could have been an act. "Makes me feel glad that I'm not dead," Hayes sang dozens of times, and even though he was still treating life as a negative option, he seemed okay with it. —Douglas Wolk

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