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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Mumiy Troll

Live in Denver, Colorado in February 2009

Review by Scott Montgomery

I never knew there were so many Russians in Denver until the popular musical juggernaut known as Mumiy Troll brought their unique rocapops sound to town on February 2, 2009.  Russians were there en masse, to the point that the conversational din in the club was carried out almost entirely in the Russian tongue. (This was a little psychedelic and disorienting for the few of us in attendance who did not understand a word of Russian, as it seemed as though the entire audio was playing in reverse.  It gets even weirder after a …)  Even outside the venue, the line stretching around the block was almost entirely comprised of Russian fans. These were not red squares, but rather hip, beautiful people with a few genuinely artsy eccentrics thrown in.  It was a crowd that knew Mumiy Troll and not just in passing.  As one elated fan put it, “this is very very big – one of the biggest bands in Russia comes to Denver!”)  It was great to see so many serious fans happy to see such a renowned group in a rather small venue, and in Denver for that matter.  It was also unfortunate that there were not more non-Russians there.  Why?  Because Mumiy Troll is a phenomenal band that kicks some major major butt.  As with their self-fashioned descriptor “rocapops” they fuse the power and energy of rock with impeccably crafted hook-laden songs of the pop tradition.  Though the place was largely packed in sardine-tin capacity conditions, there was still a little room for dancing in the back.  Still, I only wished that more people could have been there to check this band out – they are solid, dynamic, tight, yet also fluidly respondent to one another’s subtle reconfigurations of songs.  In short, they are a world-class rock band of far greater scale than most of us in Denver seemed aware.  Well, I count myself as lucky to have been there.  All the more so, shortly thereafter when I learned that the rest of the tour had been canceled due to a medical condition.  To those of you on the West Coast who missed this, I am sorry you missed it, but probably not as sorry as you are.  Let’s look forward to another Mumiy Troll expedition to North America soon.  I sure hope they come back to Denver.

So what did you miss then?  First of all, two very well-played, energetic yet tasteful sets by the Missing Dufrenes and The Don’ts and Be Carefuls.  I am assuming (and hoping) that they are local – Denver-area bands.  Good bands – they pumped up the crowd with driving but not overly heavy song-based material.  Good stuff.  This being the universe wherein someone seems to have decided that it was a great idea to have the headliner go on at somewhere verging on midnight, it was not until close to the witching hour that Mumiy Troll’s awaited turn to take the stage came to pass. 

And there was much rejoicing!  From the get-go, it was apparent that Mumiy Troll is a first-class live act.  Only familiar with the energetic yet tightly produced sound of their excellent new release Comrade Ambassador, I had wondered if this is a band that can pull it off as well live.  In a word, yes.   In fact, I could be swayed by an argument favoring the energy of their live sound over the relative polish of their studio material.  I’ll take both, thanks.  The Vladivostok-based quartet is centered around charismatic vocalist and leader Ilya Lagutenko who visually dominates as the obvious front-man.  Like Martin Barre to Ian Anderson, or the Edge to Bono, guitarist extraordinaire Yuri Tsaler adds a rocking, solid landscape that often interweaves very effectively with Lagutenko’s vocalizations.  The big big drum foundation was driven down the Bonzo Highway by the tasteful powerhouse playing conjured by Oleg Pungin.  Weaving a dynamic thread between the powerful drum foundation and the multi-layered guitar and vocal edifices of song, was the rich, rhythmelodic bass of Eugene Zvidoionny.  Like other great bands that labor together for a greater collective sound, these four work extraordinarily well as an ensemble.  Ilya is clearly the predominant musical, lyrical, visionary force, but it is the perfect fusion of the four of them as a band that makes Mumiy Troll truly great – they have creative vision and power and the wherewithal to deliver it extraordinarily well live.

I did not get a set-list, as they were snatched as souvenirs well before I had any chance of procuring one.  Mumiy Troll was in fifth gear from the start, from the guitar figures that introduced the opening number, “Hey, Tovarish!” right on through to the ringing conclusion of the final encore. Tight, energetic, and tasteful, this was a seasoned and exceptional musical outfit. Much of the material was played from the new album, Comrade Ambassador, but there were plenty of other songs with which I was not familiar.  I assumed that these were from their earlier albums, which are a wee tad difficult to get a hold of since they are Russian releases.  But, certainly many members of the audience were extremely familiar with these songs, as they sang along.   

The band had the entire place positively rocking from the first measure.  While weaving in some well-placed mellower numbers, the set maintained an overall energy that was decidedly upbeat and absolutely rock and roll.  Wisely unleashing their fun Russian-language cover of “California Dreaming” early on in the set, Mumiy Troll paced its performance perfectly – keeping everyone on her/his feet and energized through an impressively long and late set.   Grooving spacious songs such as “V Jetom Svete” (“In Our World”) and rocking anthemic numbers like “Koroleva Rocka” (“Queen of Rock”) alike came across extraordinarily well live, even better perhaps than the excellent studio versions.  One of the highlights of the set was the beautifully textured and atmospheric song “Popsi, Rock’N’Roll” (“Sleep Rock’N’Roll”).  Contrasting with the catchy melodic upbeat songs that comprised the majority of the set, this lush, slow, almost sleepy number lucidly demonstrated one of the band’s great strengths to be the creation of entrancing jangling atmospheric aural topography.  Kicking back into full-tilt rock and roll gear, the band deftly navigated the difficult dynamics of the transition from slow song to rocker.  By the first downbeat, the dancers were back in hopping and bopping abandon.  Steaming right on to the final ringing note of the last encore, Mumiy Troll delivered a high energy, yet also strangely elegant set - elegant in the sense that comes of the comfort and self-awareness of a seasoned band that has been there and back and has maintained the love of serving the music and playing for the muse…..and the people…..

Scott Montgomery
Scott Montgomery
Scott Montgomery
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at
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