July 3, 2008
My Bloody Valentine
Roundhouse, London. (June 20)
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As stage-time draws near, there are some worried faces down the front. In the 16 long years since they last played live, My Bloody Valentine’s legend has swelled to the extent that many fear the magic spell cast even as they stayed almost silent might be ruined by this most surprising of comebacks. These undisputed kings of what is now nominally (and lazily) known as shoegazing left behind a musical legacy so perfect, so treasured… it would be a travesty for the devotees gathered here were they to taint it with anything lacklustre.
Turns out, worrying is unnecessary. The re-release of their classic albums ‘Isn’t Anything’ and ‘Loveless’ has been put back because Kevin Shields hasn’t had time to write the sleevenotes, so intense have the rehearsals for these shows been. And, of course, the two low-key warm-up gigs they played the week before this five-night run in north London helped. Because when the four-piece take to the stage (looking almost exactly the same as the last time they played), they blast into a coruscating, nerve-shredding version of ‘Only Shallow’ and are as incendiary as ever. Like a large amount of the set, it’s drawn from 1991’s ‘Loveless’ (which, bar a couple of covers, was their last release) and it’s obvious from the reaction to the likes of the queasily hypnotic ‘I Only Said’ and the dance grooves and delirious blur of guitars that make up the staggering ‘Soon’ that this is the record closest to the heart of the devotees. They close with a 20-minute version of 1988 single ‘You Made Me Realise’ that is so loud even the people who chose to wear the free earplugs handed out on the door are struggling. Primal Scream’s Mani, a man who’s no stranger to Shields’ guitar assaults, sums it up as being “like a post-apocalyptic warzone in there”.
Speaking to NME afterwards, Shields explains there is unlikely to be any new material aired on the tour. So, more of the same then – but it’s so long since we’ve heard these astonishing songs, that, much like the Pixies before them, it’s fitting that a new generation of fans are getting to see what was always so special about them. Still one of the world’s greatest ever bands, and this valedictory jaunt is only likely to make their legend grow. See them while you still can.
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