My Bloody Valentine - Barrowland, Glasgow, Sat 9 Mar
Kevin Shields and co's return to the live arena shows humility and respect for the band's legacy
There’s something peculiar about seeing My Bloody Valentine onstage together. It’s almost as if the symbiotic relationships and synergy between the band members has never diminished in the 22 years between Loveless and the making of new album m b v. Despite only a handful of appearances in the interim, and only the occasional claustrophobic interview with Kevin Shields where he vaguely hinted at the possibility of new material, F Scott Fitzgerald's maxim that 'There are no second acts' obviously didn't anticipate this particular unlikely return.
In relative terms their new album is more akin to Michelangelo spending years tirelessly working on the Sistine Chapel rather than a jaded bohemian’s wearied mind only now having the courage to finally indulge in some brushstrokes once again. Tonight it is simply a joy to hear Shields’s awe-inspiring, caterwauling guitar blasting through the speakers. Polarised by Bilinda Butcher’s delicate sighs, fighting to be heard amongst the cacophony of noise, it is truly amazing how the subtlest of dynamics can be heard among the mix. Against a backdrop of psychedelic, kaleidoscopic visuals inspired by album artwork throughout the band’s career, their wallpaper adds a lushness to the ambient soundscapes that Shields is so adept at orchestrating.
‘New You’ from new album m b v is a nice slice of ear candy early in the set, and an interesting chance to see how the new songs translate live. ‘To Here Knows When’ is a truly hypnotic experience which oscillates wildly through the audience, creating a warmth that is both tangible and visceral. An extended version of indie classic ‘Soon’ changes the dynamic of the gig as the crowd start to break out some old school Baggy shuffles as if entranced by the psych-groove that Debbie Googe lays down on the bass. During the abrasive ‘You Made Me Realise’ the audience braces itself for the infamous ‘Holocaust’ section which sees Shields create an overwhelming wall of white noise as many among the crowd look on in horror while frantically searching for their free earplugs. After the dust settles, drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig comes centrestage on one of Shield’s Fender Jaguars adding to the intensity of closing track ‘Wonder 2’ which fascinates with its break-neck jungle beats and aero-dynamic noise. Ending on the sincerity of a hushed ‘thank you’ from a somewhat bashful Shields confirms suspicions that MBV is still very much a labour of love, carried out with a great deal of humility and respect for their legacy.