Monday, October 13, 2008

My Bloody Valentine Aragon Ballroom 9/27/2008

I'd like to write a few words about one of my most recent, and unique musical experiences. On September 27th , I took the Mega bus from St. Louis to Chicago to witness My Bloody Valentine live. If you don't know who they are, I don't think any description of their music really does it justice; so my best advice for you is to just go pick-up some of their music and give it a listen. For those who have heard them, you probably don't know what their shows are like live. This has something to do with the fact that their current tour is the first in the U.S. in 16 years. So I guess without say too much else here are my thoughts.

I had heard that My Bloody Valentine puts on a loud show (some contest it's the loudest, some fans spotting 132 dBs on the board). And I had heard they were handing out earplugs to everyone. But finally getting to venue, and seeing the sheer number of speakers and equipment on stage, I knew I was in for a loud night. My father and I got there about a half-hour early, which let us snag spots right in front of the soundboard.

After waiting through the opener (I can't find the name), who were good but not why I was there, My Bloody Valentine finally took the stage. Kevin Shields, Belinda Butcher, Debbie Googe and Colm O’Ciosoig are by no stretch of the imagination rock stars. This was obvious when at the start of I Only Said, the opener, bright white lights started to strobe around the stage, almost blinding you from seeing the band. Throughout the night Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher would step up to the mic and step back without much apparent emotion or enthusiasm. Debbie Googe and Colm O’Ciosoig on the other hand were moving and playing as you might expect from the music that was being played.

Actually in general, I didn't know what to expect. I knew what shoegazing was, but only in words. It turned out to be something more and less then what I expected. During the show, it was as if the whole crowd was transfixed on something else. No one was rowdy, and the only movements I really saw was a head nod here or a sway there. Everyone was even standing in rows. It was one of the calmest shows I've ever been too. It was something completely different.

The music itself was amazing. The music overwhelmed the vocals even more then they do on the album; but everything sounded great. On Nothing Much To Lose, Colm O’Ciosoig drum rolled his heart out; delaying the hook of the song. On When You Sleep (personal favorite song right now) we saw a green path leading to nowhere in particular. Much like the music itself, the graphics that backed every song were distorted just enough that you couldn't fully tell what was happening. Every song sounded familiar but different.

And then it happened. The moment I had heard and read about. Belinda and Kevin said their thanks and good-byes, and launched into You Made Me Realise. A song that on their groundbreaking Creation single is under four-minutes, here was a sprawling song, whose length I did not measure. While the song starts off as a regular song, it quickly turns into a single chord repeated over and over again. The distortion builds and builds until the whole room is one noise. At this point the lights are going full tilt as well. Strobe lights that blind you, and surely put at least one person into an epileptic fit were everywhere. I fell into a trance like state at one point, and was only brought out of it when I took my earplugs out to feel the whole of the experience. Suddenly all of my senses came back in an instant. I was awake, aware, and my whole body felt like I was in some kind of storm. I can't do the experience justice, so I won't try too much.

After they finally finished You Made Me Realise, the crowd was stunned. White lights from the stage flooded the room, preventing you from seeing the stage. No one seemed to know what to do, and most people took a few minutes before they finally turned to talk to those around them. While we knew it wouldn't happen, we all hoped that they would come back on for just one more song.

After fighting the crowd out of the theater, it was a shock to not be constantly bombarded with noise. A slight ringing was in my ear, but it doesn't seem like it will be a problem. An experience unlike any other, I recommend that if you ever have a chance see them live. With the current tour, and rumors of a third LP, this might be easier then ever before.

Grade: A+

Set list:
I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
When You Wake
Cigarette in Your Bed
Come in Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much to Lose
To Here Knows When
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise


Anonymous said...

The opening act was Hopewell. Not bad, at all as opening acts go (cf. the Liars), but not special.

I can only second what Andrew said in his excellent review. I've been going to concerts for a long time, and MBV was a unique experience, not musical but a bombardment of the senses of sight and, especially, sound, paradoxically, enhances our understanding of those sentiments.

Michael W said...

sounds like an amazing experience.