It has been seventeen years between releases for Mazzy Star, an ambient dream pop group best known for their 1994 hit "Fade Into You." Reemerging after their too-long absence, Mazzy Star has gone on tour in support of their fourth album Seasons of Your Day (released September 24, 2013 via the band's own label Rhymes Of An Hour). In a Rolling Stone interview, Mazzy Star's co-leader David Roback said he's "curious to see how the band will be greeted after such a long absence." I have to admit, when I first heard Mazzy Star would be releasing a new album, I wondered the same exact thing. Would Mazzy Star be able to recapture their old magic? Or, after such a lengthy hiatus, would the dream pop icons fizzle and flop? I could barely wait to go to their sold-out Union Transfer concert to find out.
After watching a fantastic opening set by Psychic Ills, a drudgey psychedelic rock band from Brooklyn, the audience quickly became anxious. We waited seventeen years for this moment. Each minute that passed seemed like an eternity, one that was made even more excruciatingly slow by the show's strictly enforced no-camera/no-phone policy.
Finally, after being forced to pass the time by talking to real live people instead of digital phantoms on our phones, the house lights go down. Only a few dim bulbs glow meekly from the stage. A heavy silence blankets the audience. Dave Roback and Hope Sandoval, along with three touring musicians, appear out of nowhere. Immediately, Mazzy Star plunges into their opening song "Look on Down From the Bridge" (from their third album Among My Swan ).
They couldn't have picked a better opener, because the thing that stuck out most about the show, aside from Roback and Sandoval's insane music chops, was how seamlessly Mazzy Star bridged the past with the present.
The show was neither a throwback to Mazzy Star's glory days, nor was it a rejection of their iconic history. The performance was completely fluid in the way it united where the band once was with where the band is today.
It was obvious from the first few seconds that Mazzy Star has lost none of their magic. If anything, their magic has only grown more powerful over the years. Sandoval's enchanting voice and Roback's slide guitar mastery held us captive in our own little worlds, causing each of us to sway with the gentle rhythms as we stared starry-eyed at the stage.
"Fade Into You" was performed about three-quarters of the way into the set. Though this is Mazzy Star's smash hit, and though it's the song to which most Mazzy Star fans feel the strongest connection, I don't even know that I would call it the highlight of the night. I mean, how do you pick the high out of something that has no lows?
"California" (from their latest album Seasons Of Your Day), was Mazzy Star's first encore song. This acoustic classic rock number was new to a lot of us, but we found it every bit as phenomenal as the band's more popular tunes. It satisfied our Mazzy Star hunger, but at the same time, it kept us wanting more.
And as impatient as I am, if I had to go another seventeen years before seeing a Mazzy Star show that was just as good as this one, then I can wholeheartedly tell you it would be well worth the wait.