Review: My Bloody Valentine at Hammersmith Apollo
Published on March 14th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
That’s the first gig that Rocksucker can recall having earplugs handed to us upon entrance. Then again, it was our first time seeing the great My Bloody Valentine – do they always do that ten-minute cacophony of rocket-taking-off noise near the end? And do folk usually run screaming? That sure was fun to watch.
Elsewhere, well, woah: MBV kicked off with Loveless centre-piece “I Only Said”, with Kevin Shields’s guitar turned up sufficiently high to isolate the raga-like strum he executes over the top of it, as he does over one or two more of its slow, stompy kin. We’re then immediately taken ‘backwards’ into “When You Sleep”, so steeped in sludge as to make it quite clear that you shouldn’t expect to hear either Shields’s or Bilinda Butcher’s vocals tonight. Indeed, at times it becomes hard to tell whether you’re hearing vocal lines because they’re actually audible or whether its due to the imprint left by repeat listens of the studio version.
Also pretty much drowned out in the mix was the bass work of Debbie Googe, now also of Primal Scream, although her constantly maintained rock pose and very evident chemistry with drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig lent a compelling visual element to MBV’s otherwise static live presence (which is a fancy way of saying that Shields and Butcher pretty much just stand still at the front of the stage). Ó Cíosóig intersperses his pounding rhythms with clattering firecracker drum fills throughout, making it a busy evening for any air-drummers watching (guilty!).
We then get the shimmering, triumphant hot air balloon ride of “New You” from the recently released m b v album, before eardrums are roundly shredded with a trio of early numbers: namely, the Dinosaur Jr. rush of Isn’t Anything cut “You Never Should”, the savage wonkiness of “Honey Power” and utterly masterful “Cigarette in Your Bed”. Butcher’s skywards “wooooo!”s in staggering new ‘un “Only Tomorrow” prove to be as deliriously awesome in a live setting as they do on record, “Come in Alone” and “Only Shallow” satiate the Loveless junkies, “Thorn” provides relatively jangle-poppy respite while burning a trail in its propulsive wake, then “To Here Knows When” and “Slow” mong the joint out with their K-hole gaits and oddly anthemic whirring sounds.
It’s then that we’re treated to “Soon” and you remember that you can kind of dance to MBV after all – not that you haven’t been already, but you can imagine other people dancing to “Soon”. It’s so mighty, benevolent and supreme that it deserves a paragraph all to itself.
Punishing early favourite “You Made Me Realise” is an apt choice of tune to disrupt with the ten-minute noise flare-up described in the opening paragraph (apparently known rather untastefully as The Holocaust section), and then the show ends as the new album does: with the insanely whirring, urgent yet mind-blown soundscapery of “Wonder 2”. My Bloody Valentine finish, thank us and leave without an encore, all with consummate understatement. We like bands who do that.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
m b v is out now and available at www.mybloodyvalentine.co.uk