There's little difference between the Modest Mouse of 2007 and the Modest Mouse of 2013.
The band has released just an odds-and-ends EP since its last Tucson visit. And aside from the notable departure of temporary guitarist Johnny Marr, Modest Mouse seems content to tread the same off-beat grooves.
But the consistency that's come after 20 years as a band plays well in the hands of the idiosyncratic Modest Mouse. And having crossed from cult indie act to Grammy-nominated platinum sellers, Modest Mouse stuck a brand-new song into the heart of Saturday night's set (premiered the previous night at Coachella) that offers fans that same magnetic pull of excitement as their best work.
"Be Brave" is edgy, skittering rock, drawing on the best traits Modest Mouse has displayed over the years. Frontman Isaac Brock yelps "From day to day, from day to day to today/ We carry our weight," at the song's start, then takes the song careening from quiet to loud through to its conclusion.
By sandwiching "Be Brave" between an early favorite (1996's "Custom Concern") and a fist-pumping anthem from the band's best-selling record (2004's "Black Cadillacs"), Isaac Brock drew the different eras of his band into one, as if saying everything across the band's tumultuous history—and all the tumultuous songs—simply exist on one continuum.
Aside from "Be Brave," the set drew heavily from the band's Epic Records trio: 2000's breakthrough The Moon & Antarctica ("Paper Thin Walls," "Gravity Rides Everything," "I Came as a Rat," "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes"), 2004's poppier heavy hitter Good News for People Who Love Bad News ("Satin in a Coffin," "The Good Times Are Killing Me") and 2007's We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank ("Dashboard," "Fire It Up," "Spitting Venom").
The set (and crowd) reached a predictable peak with "Float On," the signature hit that managed to take everything Modest Mouse does well and deliver it to the masses. Live, the song takes on more of the band's oddball roots, connecting Brock and his newer-found crowd to the band's blessedly weird past. The encore was a trio of songs: "Ocean Breathes Salty," "Lives" and "The View," the final tune summing up Brock's philosophy as well as anything he's written: "If life's not beautiful without the pain/ Well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again."