Arriving at a venue to be confronted by signs strongly recommending the wearing of earplugs should be a disconcerting experience; but in the case of My Bloody Valentine their reputation should precede them. Even a cursory glance at live reviews of the band should arm anyone thinking of going to one of their gigs with the knowledge that they will be entering not so much a cathedral of sound as a giant cement mixer of noise; their famed use of volume, to say the least, very much deserves its notoriety.
Playing a good spread of material from throughout their career, they displayed what the full Kevin Shields vision of their music must be; namely pretty dirge-like songs buried under a landslide of rumble; the vocals almost entirely obliterated, as was my mind of most of the evening. My consciousness emerged from its catatonic state at periods to notice particular songs: ‘To Here Knows When’ swooped down upon the venue like an eagle constructed from perpetually looped explosions; ‘Soon’ re-cast the band as a trance inducing psych outfit, it seemed to repeat eternally; ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ had a spectacularly brutal riff, hammering the ears and rattling the chest.
The only negative for me was also one the band’s most notable features: extreme volume. It seems self-defeating to play at a loudness that forces most of the audience to cower behind charred ear-protection; therefore, largely missing the noise that the band is so justly lauded for creating. I braved it at intervals; but retreated to safety during the evening’s highlight, ‘You Made Me Realise’. To hear the central noise section of this song live is to witness the full force of My Bloody Valentine’s sound. It is remarkable, numbing and terrifying; like being pummelled ceaselessly by shards of furious noise. Its long duration is completely hypnotic and I have no idea how long it went on for, it could have been days.
This was an astounding performance of a bruising musical aesthetic, My Bloody Valentine make no concessions and take no prisoners.