Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Bloody Valentine - live at Roseland 9/22/08

My Bloody Valentine - Live at Roseland - Monday the 22nd of September, 2008

So much has already been written about the after-16-year reunion of this, the greatest shoegazer band of all time. What is then that I could possibly add?

Well, one thing (and its really the only thing in my book) - I can add are my own unique impressions and experience on it all.

Anyone familiar with this current tour knows the deal by now. Band makes never-matched, unparalleled album "Loveless" in 1991. Band eventually dissolves under a cloud of label bankruptcy (and claims of another type of smokeable "cloud"). Band goes on "hiatus" for - oh, I dunno - say 17 years or so.

But that's all history. They're back together now. They've just dazzled audiences in upstate New York, New York City (two unbelievalbe, amazing shows) and now I see Canada too. They move on to the midwest and then the left coast.

As for the show I attended - their first show back in NYC (in those aforementioned 16-17 years) - it was everything I could hope it to be.

It was all there. The pitch bends; the guitar distortions - all folding into each other and cresting in warm, diaphanous layers. Dense drones and formidable crescendos. Vocalists Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher melding their voices into each other with twisted murmers and hissing spaces. It was all perfectly executed. Dreamy, heartbreaking hooks that are warped and melded into a white-noise wall of sound, and overdriven amplifiers to the max.

I was just a bit surprised to see that the dreamy Belinda Butcher had cut her long hair short - but getting past that initial shock, I couldn't help but notice how well she had held up over the years. In fact, she is just as hot as ever - if by "hot" - it is someone (on appearance and stage presence) is so outwardly shy and reticent - which of course makes her perfect for this band.

Here is the opening song of the night:
"I Only Said"

Kevin Shields was, naturally, his brilliant self. It has been reported that the band spent approximately two hundred thousand British Pounds (roughly $366,000 US dollars) on equipment for the tour. It showed, as the view on the stage showed a force of 15 precariously stacked amplifiers and shiny new guitars on stands. Kevin was also quoted as saying he has hundreds of effects pedals, but only used 30 onstage.

The second song of the night:
"When You Sleep".

Belinda took frequent water breaks between songs.

Third song played:
"You Never Should"

Bassist Debbie Googe and Drummer Colm O'Ciosoig were a ferocious, thundering rhythm section. I was most impressed with the way Debbie would just physically punish her bass - pounding it with her fist - while Colm (who has to have the coolest name in rock) was a complete tasmanian devil on the kit. These two never let you forget that despite all the ethereal-to-distortion stuff going on out front - that this is in fact very much a rock band.

Fourth song:
"When You Wake (You're Still In A Dream)"

Fifth song:
"Cigarette In Your Bed"

The light show that accompanied each and every song was at times completely blinding. Flashing red strobes that just pummelled your senses during the dramatic and forceful moments of the song - which would alternate with a dark and quiet backdrop during the moments Belinda or Kevin would sing verses.

Sixth song:
"Come In Alone"

Belinda and Kevin changed their guitars on nearly every song. Belinda worked a red, blue and sparkly white hollow-body mustang throughout the night. It was without a doubt one of the most heavenly, mind-bending concerts I've experienced in quite some time. What amazed me was how effortless it all appeared to the two guitarists, and yet the sheer force and wave of sound they produced was stunning.

The seventh song:
"Only Shallow"
At this point I was openly singing out what I always thought were the words to this song - but mostly was just making sounds and trying to mimic whatever Belinda was doing. You could do that and no one around would even notice. Or hear you. The all enveloping sound completely crushing whatever was coming out of your own voicebox.

The eighth song:

A lot has already been written about how loud the band was as well - and although I don't own earplugs - I do make sure to have tissues with me to just dampen the decibels just enough so that no permanent hearing loss is sustained. Just the week before I was at an A Place To Bury Strangers show (who held the title of "loudest band in NY") and I was adequately muffled for that. I didn't think My Bloody Valentine were any louder than that show - and based on my physical position in the audience (pretty much center and about 5-7 standing rows back) thought the overall volume was what it should be.

Getting this set list took some work.

The rest of the show:

Ninth song:
"Nothing Much To Lose"

Tenth song:
"To Here Knows When"
(what Brian Eno called the vaguest pop song he ever heard)
Eleventh song:
(My fave song off of the You Made Me Realise sessions - it slithers like a snake. Lyrically, their most sexually suggestive song?)
Twelveth song:

For me - the highlight of the night. Already one of my all-time fave songs of theirs - ever since I bought the 4 song "Glider" EP when it came out in the early 90's. And it has been in semi-regular rotation on my evolving-with-the-times listening devices. The place went crazy on this one. Everyone was just dancing and hopping up and down. I was singing along with every muffled almost-lyric. This one really gets to me. I imagined that Belinda saw me singing along with her - and she gave me a secret, knowing smile. It was that blissful concert moment you hope will happen. When your whole body chills and vibrates. It is the pure essense of why I love this kind of music.
Thirteenth song:
"Feed Me With Your Kiss"
One of those truly classic boy-girl vocal tradeoff songs. What makes this is Debbie's violent bass pounding and Colm's equally downbeat punctuating drumming.
Fourteenth song:
"You Made Me Realise"

Here just the "song" part - a mere minute-and-a-half before the "sonic holocaust". Having gotten ahold of a copy of the bands debut show in London this past June 13th - I knew what was coming. What to expect. It was poinless for me to try and record it, and frankly I wasn't sure if I would be able to stay through the whole thing. Plus, I knew others would probably capture it better. Go out and find it on the internet if you truly must hear it. But hearing a recorded version of it bears little resemblance to actually experiencing it. Yes, I stayed through the whole thing. On this night it was actually cut short a bit (due to a soundsystem that was clearly straining under the sonic weight of it all). But, for the 14 minutes it went on - I felt its waves bathe all over me. Of course I had my earplugs reinforced by this point. You physically felt this sound. It drove you backwards and wraped itself all around you. I expected people to leave (and hoped they would so I could move up closer) - but no one did. At least no one in front of me did (much to my disappointment). Instead, everyone put their hands up in the air. Yes, we were all "feeling" the soundwaves with our hands. During the 14 minute onslaught, I looked around at people. I looked up in the balcony and saw famous "celebrities" there. Local NY rock icons. I studied their faces. Wanted to see how they were reacting to it. As I looked back periodically - some were gone. They moved away. Couldn't take it I suppose. Others moved into their position.
It was truly a "mind blowing" experience, and all I could ever have hoped for.

Back on earth, the merch stalls were doing a brisk business.

Supporting the band on this night was Kevin Shield's brothers band - The Wounded Knees.

Jimi Shields played an acoustic guitar, run through so many effects it no longer sounded "acoustic".

Apparently they are friends with legendary Dinosaur Jr frontman
J Mascis

J Played with them!

Listen to the master riff with them here:
There was one other band on the bill - a french outfit named
Le Volume Courbe

They were pleasant and inoffensive.
My Bloody Valentine fullfilled all of my hopes and expectations, in this, one of the truly great concert experiences of the last decade.


somedaynever said...

Fantastic review Dave! I was there, up front, one of those guys who "wouldn't leave"...haha!
How could I? This truly felt like a once in a lifetime event. I waited 16 years to see MBV play live! "Loveless" is my favorite album of all time. Your videos are awesome too. Could you concentrate on the show while taking them? Obviously yes since your review was so detailed and on the money! Thanks,

DaveCromwell said...

Thanks for your thoughts, John. Ha, ha - I wish you would have moved so I could move up. I really only wanted to get a decent picture of Belinda ;-) Never did. Too much smoke.

I can't believe Shields inflicts the sound of a Jet Aircraft on us!

somedaynever said...

We somehow survived the show at Roseland on Monday night!
My daughter who lives in Manhattan, met up with us as my wife and I stood in line for 2-1/2 hours outside behind 12 people, before the line swelled to 100+ in less than a half hour (we got there at the right time). The line soon wrapped around the block.
Doors opened at 7, got thru security, raced to the stage and managed to get to the very front! 15 seconds later, we wouldn't have made it to the front as the crowd packed in tightly and quickly.

The stage crew was working on the equipment and I saw Kevin Shields among them so I raised my arms and shouted out at the top of my lungs like an idiot, 'KEVIN!!!" and he turned to me and smiled and slightly waved his hand to me before turning back to his crew.
My musical hero Kevin Shields waved to me! I was giddy as a schoolgirl. My night was already complete.

There were 2 opening bands (the last one included Dinosaur jr's J Mascis on lead guitar as a guest).
I vowed never to go to a Mascis/Dinosaur jr show again after they slightly damaged my hearing at a concert 10 years ago. But there he was 20 feet away with his long white hair, beer belly and guitar in hand.
Thankfully, the opening band's sound levels were half that of MBV's so Mascis and company didnt ruin my hearing again this night. The earplugs helped a lot.

Finally, after much anticipation, at 10:15ish, My Bloody Valentine came on stage to a thunderous roar from the crowd. I waited 16 years for this moment. They kicked into gear instantly with the song "I Only Said", and blew us away for nearly 80 minutes of ear shattering bliss.
Let me tell you, no amount of warning can prepare you for how loud this band is!

Our earplugs did the trick though. Even with plugs, it was still VERY loud but at least it wasn't painful. I removed my plugs for a few seconds once during the show to experience the naked sound. It was mind blowing. I felt like I was inside a jet engine doing somersaults. No human ears could take this for very long, I said to myself.

The band was tight. It was difficult to clearly hear the singing, but MBV isnt a vocal oriented band so it didnt matter much to me. Kevin looked fantastic up there and I marvelled at what he did with his guitar.
Guitarist/vocalist Belinda moved the least, she's a true "shoegazer". Deb the bass player was a maniac and thrashed around more than I expected, and Colm blew us away with his wild/fast/brutal attack on drums thru the whole show. I dont know how he kept it up. The light/video show was pretty damn cool too, but was no comparison to what MBV did with sound.

For me, the best songs of the night were the opener "I Only Said", along with "Only Shallow", "Feed me with Your Kiss", Soon" and the finale, "You Made me Realise" aka the "Holocaust Song" with it's notorious 15 minute orgiastic, feedback laden one note assault on the senses. Halfway thru the sound frenzy, Kevin walked about the stage while furiously strumming his stratocaster checking the amps (there were LOTS OF GIGANTIC AMPS!)
Without missing a note, he summoned a stagehand to fix one of the amps that had blown out. It amazed me that he even noticed it had blown at that point, because I certainly couldnt tell.
125 dbs sounds like 130 dbs to me!
But a few seconds later, we suddenly felt a tremendous amount of fresh bass hit us in the faces and we knew all amps were back on track.

There is no way to describe the power and glory of all this beautiful noise going through your body.
During the Holocaust, I noticed a woman standing on the edge of the balcony as if she was Rose from "Titanic", standing at the bow of the ship with eyes closed, arms out, a big grin on her face, blissfully soaking it all in as if she was free falling through air.

My daughter (who isnt even that much of a MBV fan) turned to me during the final song with face beaming and mouthed the words, "I LOVE this!"

Set list:

01 "I Only Said"
02 "When You Sleep"
03 "You Never Should"
04 "When You Wake"
05 "Cigarette In Your Bed"
06 "Come In Alone"
07 "Only Shallow"
08 "Thorn"
09 "Nothing Much To Lose"
10 "To Here Knows When"
11 "Blown A Wish"
12 "Slow"
13 "Soon"
14 "Feed Me With Your Kiss"
15 "You Made Me Realise"

It was so cool to see the marquee out in front of the club, spelled out in big red letters...


Check this out...
Here's an AMAZING clip of the final song from last night's show, shot from way in the back...(imagine standing in the front where i was!)

DaveCromwell said...

For further reference, see this article with a lot of info from the bands soundman:

Unknown said...

I am now just a little sad, as I caught the show in Chicago and as I was leaving I said to my buddy, "The only way that show could've been better is if they played Sueisfine."

And there it is, on the setlist. The set in Chicago was the same as the set in NYC.

Fabulous show. I only hope that I didn't lose too much of my (remaining) hearing from the onslaught.

x said...

Now that's a hell of a review. Very detailed and well written. The band's music may not be the best I've ever heard but it's really good. Cool stuff.