My Bloody Valentine
Effenaar, Eindhoven, 25th May 2009
One of those things you just pick up on in passing on NME.com – My Bloody Valentine are doing loads of festivals in Europe this year, but they are doing 1 (one!) indoor gig as a test / warmup, and that’s in Eindhoven. 1st time back there since 1984! Not only is it within driving distance, but there’s tickets available, at the bargain price of €25. By the next day, I’ve got a car-load of us scheduled for the pilgrimage.
First of all, a Word about Ned Raggett. Ned is a DJ/Reviewer/Pundit whom I first noticed as author of a number of reviews/write-ups of Chameleons albums. Turns out he’s really into Kitchens of Distinction (one of my all time favourite bands) as well. Further reading was key in introducing me to For Against. Ned’s no.1 album of all time is MBV’s Loveless. I had missed out on MBV the first time round in the 90’s, so Loveless had to be checked out, and sure enough, I was pretty impressed. Other things I’ve read about MBV (notably Ned’s interview with Kevin Shields), got me thinking this was one gig not to be missed.
So a car load consisting of me, Fred la Cerise, Ubiquitous Yves, and Élise the bassist all trekked up to Eindhoven. Warnings about “extreme noise” are posted on the door and everyone is being given a set of earplugs. Though most people seem to have their own anyway.
Opening act is Solex from Amsterdam. Not a lot that deserves to be said. Highlight of the show was when she reached inside her dress to straighten her bra-strap. Musically? John Peel said anything with a saxophone in it got assigned straight to the bin. The sax was sampled.
First, some guitar porn. When Bilinda walked on stage in a coral pink dress and matching cardigan, I sort of wondered if she’d got the right show. Until the guitar tech handed her the most gorgeous Fender Jaguar in shimmering metalized scarlet that lights up the stage like a glitter ball. Dress to blend in with the guitars. We got treated to maybe a dozen similarly gorgeous guitars – most looked like Jaguars. And amps. 8 very large stacks – 2 for Bilinda, 2 for Deb and 4 for Kevin, all carefully angled and separated with these transparent noise-walls. It’s notable that there are no overheads – Colm’s cymbals are close miked. Oh – and Kevin’s pedal board is about 2 meters long, and ties in to an amp-sized FX rack.
Instant, glorious, utter noise right from the first strum of “I only said” Yes, it’s phenomenally loud. Yes, it’s distorted to hell and back. But it’s also tight as anything, and very faithful to the recorded sound. Bilinda’s voice is sweet and beautiful, and just floats through the wall of noise like a butterfly in a hurricane. The sound of the distortion on the guitars is fascinating – I think it must be this that causes the listener to hear guitars and melodies that aren’t really there – it’s almost as if your brain is filtering through the noise and picking out the harmonics that make up new melodies. Is it real? Or is it an auditory illusion?
The set is unfortunately interrupted with technical issues, probably with Kevin’s vocal feedback loop. That’s exactly why they’re doing the gig – try out the equipment, so I’m not complaining. Though some of the crowd seem to think it’s worth a heckle.
Realise has a break/bridge section towards the end. It’s not on the recording. It’s affectionately known as “the holocaust”, and it consists of a long period where everyone plays as loud as possible. It’s an incredible experience – the sound takes over – it’s impossible to do anything – all communication stops – your whole body responds to the music (for music it still is – there are still melodies and rhythms, even if they’re no longer very distinct). Just let loose and become one with it all. By all accounts, the 10-15 minutes we got tonight was a bit short – it has been known to go on for over ½ hour.
Fred said it was almost exactly the same set as he’d seen them play in ’92. And it was still just as Bloody Marvellous.
Very nice summary here from DJHarrie on YouTube: