by Dave Segal
on Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 10:51 AM
First, a note to all the My Bloody Valentine haters, doubters, and sitters on the fence: Eat a 12-course meal of crow—with excrement canapés for dessert. Second: Dear everybody—you’re gonna have to speak louder from now on.
But let’s back up a bit to the openers of this show. Brightblack Morning Light—whom I love—are totally ill-suited to play a venue like WaMu. BML’s sparse psychedelic blues dissipated in this huge, sterile cavern, weaving a mere iota of their usual magickal hippie-soul vibes. Everything sounded feeble except the kick and tom drums, which boomed ridiculously over the woozy, vaporous guitar, keyboards, and voices. It was the sonic equivalent of throwing a hot dog down a hallway.
However, BML’s first song was a stunner. It sounded like Harmonia, Silver Apples, and Suicide jamming out some obsessive keyboard motifs, in a manner way more urgent than anything Brightblack have ever done. Possibly they were just testing out the sound system, but it wouldn’t be a bad direction for them to pursue. MBV bassist Deb Googe watched the set from the crowd. She hasn’t really aged since the Loveless days. Also spotted: a woman knitting.
Kurt Heasley of Lilys came on, wearing a flannel shirt and a sensible haircut. He sat down and played acoustic guitar. His first song was a stripped down version of “Claire Hates Me” from Lilys’ MBV homage In the Presence of Nothing. The rest of his performance strummed pleasantly by, but I had to exit for a while during it to gird my psychic loins for My Bloody Valentine. Stray thought: How much did Heasley pay MBV to get on this bill?
My Bloody Valentine took the stage fashionably late, and with no nonsense leaned into “I Only Said,” picking right up where they left off 17-18 years ago, with that sublime, see-sawing, sighing guitar riff and an all-encompassing volume that was saturated X. The vocals all sounded like “AH LA LA//AH LA LA,” but it mattered not. On the huge screen behind them, sperm fought to infiltrate an egg, in magnificent purple and aquamarine hues. Lovely tribute to every writer who’s used the word “seminal” to describe them.
All night, the sound was overwhelming, the visuals mostly spectacular, the effect so painfully and blissfully psychedelic, drugs would’ve been superfluous. This show was the closest most of us will ever get to knowing what it feels like to be speeding headlong in a cyclotron. MBV rendered fears of WaMu's notoriously poor acoustics moot; they simply overpowered the venue's shortcomings, turning the entire space into the sweet spot.
MBV leader Kevin Shields looked bored, but he always looks bored. Perhaps he was doing this tour to make money to record his next masterpiece, the long-awaited follow-up to Loveless, which should be surfacing any decade now. (We're wagering it will be better than Chinese Democracy.) Bored or not, though, Shields and his band benevolently gave us one of the greatest nostalgia trips we'll ever experience.
There were many highlights. “Thorn” was pop in the form of a sugar tsunami; “Nothing Much to Lose” overspilled with feral energy; “To Here Knows When” gained a new twist, with Colm O’Ciosoig’s modified “Funky Drummer” beat; “Slow” made me scribble in my notebook the indelible phrase “asses to molasses to m’lasses”; “Soon” was funkier and more beatific than ever—I had to apologize to the person next to me for getting smile on her; “Feed Me With Your Kiss” was torrential fire storms; guitarist/vocalist Bilinda Butcher meekly said, “Thank you for coming”—twice; for the bridge of “You Made Me Realise,” MBV erected a soothing, annihilating sonic catastrophe for about 19 minutes, during which we suffered molecular damage and tasted feedback (it had a metallic flavor, like clouds). When I pulled out my earplugs a millimeter for a nanosecond, it sounded as if I’d opened the door of a jet in mid-flight. My mind flashed on a scenario of infinite images of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and the cacophony the figures in them would make if they had the power of speech. My mind flashed on the concatenation of all the wars’ artillery going off simultaneously. We were smothered in My Bloody Valentine’s music, and it was kind of erotic and transcendent. A handful of people exited during this interlude, but most stayed and relished it. It seemed more bass-heavy than the previous three times I’d experienced it. I’m pretty sure some showgoers are seeking psychological counsel, even as I type.
Now I want to thank My Bloody Valentine for ruining every other band/artist in the world’s music for me for the next week or so. Come back soon, Kevin, Bilinda, Deb, and Colm, y’hear?
SET LIST 01 I Only Said 02 When You Sleep 03 You Never Should 04 (When You Wake) You’re Still in a Dream 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 Slow 12 Soon 13 Feed Me With Your Kiss 14 You Made Me Realise