It was once said that only a handful of people actually bought Velvet Underground records when that band was in existence, but all of them ultimately started bands. The same could easily be said of Mission of Burma, a comparatively short-lived, undeniably obscure Boston-based band that had a profound impact on the state of post-modern music during its initial run.

It was once said that only a handful of people actually bought Velvet Underground records when that band was in existence, but all of them ultimately started bands. The same could easily be said of Mission of Burma, a comparatively short-lived, undeniably obscure Boston-based band that had a profound impact on the state of post-modern music during its initial run. Reunited for an undetermined span, the band set upon New York’s Irving Plaza for a two-night stand that left little doubt as to its preeminence among clinical-yet-aggressive rockers. Mission of Burma provided the bedrock upon which bands like the Pixies (and, later, Nirvana) built a sound, and this lengthy, two-set perf demonstrated that the members still have the chops and the steely eyed focus to assert themselves.

Playing to a far larger crowd than it ever wooed during its initial existence, MOB played neither coy nor nostalgic. Without resorting to “remember when?” anecdotes, the core trio sliced through angular catalog songs like “Peking Spring” and “Academy Fight Song” (the latter once covered by R.E.M.) with minimal fuss and maximum impact.

The band’s sound proved as striking today as it was upon its debut more than two decades back. Presaging the notion of sampling, the core trio always augmented itself with a tape manipulator — a role filled here by Shellac’s Bob Weston — who gave the sound a sense of depth and proto-industrial mystery.

Perf was divided into two 40-minute sets, bisected by a very brief intermission, with the first half focused on more tightly wound material (“Learn How,” “Red”). Second half was more of a sop to those who favored the band’s more disjointed, fractious material (like “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” and “All World Cowboy Romance”; band was joined on the latter by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo).

Encores brought the energy level to a high, particularly an evening-ending version of Pere Ubu’s “Heart of Darkness,” performed with house lights on and P.A. off. Energetic and joyous, it hinted that this “temporary” reunion may well have legs after all.

Mission of Burma

Irving Plaza; 900 capacity; $25

Production

Presented inhouse. Opened and reviewed Jan. 12, 2002; closed Jan. 13.

Cast

Band: Roger Miller, Clint Conley, Peter Prescott, Bob Weston.
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