Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Bloody Valentine @ The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium - 10/3/08

[Photo courtesy of LosAnjealous.com]

If I could compose a list of the top ten bands I was never able to see in-person, but wish I could, My Bloody Valentine would most likely be on there (behind The Clash, Talking Heads, Joy Division, and others). Finally, after a 16 year absence, Kevin Shields and the rest of crew made their return to Los Angeles for two shows at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and the result definitely lived up to my lofty expectations.

The first sign of things to come happened when me and my brother walked inside the venue when we headed straight for the bar and noticed a display of free earplugs sitting on the counter. It was a nice reminder that things were going to get very noisy in a short time and that we'd better be prepared. As always, we brought our own ear plugs so a loud night was not only something we came prepared for, but encouraged.

When the lights dimmed and Kevin, Belinda, Debbie, and Colm walked on stage it took about two seconds before the tidal wave of distortion and reverb of "I Only Said" hit the crowd. And with that my attention was fixated on Kevin Shields for about 90% of the show as his hands never stopped manipulating the tremolo arm, nor did he use the same guitar more than once (that's 14 guitars total, folks).

From a technical standpoint, Shields is a master of his craft. The man can simply make any kind of noise he pleases using the right combination of guitar, amplifier stack (a huge setup of something like 10 Marshall amps), and effects pedals, which he makes look effortless. His finest moments came during the euphoric sound of "When You Sleep", the chaos of "Feed Me With Your Kiss", and the epic "You Made Me Realize" (which I will talk about in a moment).

The sound mixing was also a crucial part of the experience. In order to mimic the feel of their recorded work, less emphasis was placed on the vocals than on projecting the band's instrumentation. It is a long held opinion by MBV fans that the lyrics are secondary to the visceral appeal of their meticulously crafted soundscapes. Indeed, the music too damn loud for any vocals to sound intelligible anyway, so why even bother?

Speaking of volume, even through the protection of my silicone earplugs the music seemed to slowly but steadily grow louder as the show progressed. Of course, subtlety was thrown completely out the window during the night's closer "You Made Me Realise."

The song is already one of the most rauckus in the band's catalog, but they kicked it up many notches during the middle portion with a blitzkrieg of feedback that literally caused the walls to shake. I'm not kidding around here. The noise was deafening as the wall of amps behind the band blared a rumbling avalanche of tremolo-conducted distortion that lasted for nearly 25 minutes! After the storm calmed from ludicrous back down to merely intense volume levels the band promptly resumed the the song to its normal conclusion and exited the stage. No encore needed, since most people were probably ready for some air after that crazy go nuts sound display.

While it was impressive to behold, I would've been happier if the band cut the noise-a-thon to, say ten minutes and filled the remaining 15 with two more songs...like maybe "Sueisfine" and "All I Need"? It would've been nice, but by no means did it ruin my night at all. I got see one of my all-time favorite bands perform most of the songs I wanted to hear in impeccable fashion. If you can walk away from a concert saying that to yourself, then the night was a rousing success.

"When You Sleep"


I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
(When You Wake)You're Still In A Dream
Cigarette In Your Bed
Come In Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much To Lose
To Here Knows When
Feed Me Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise

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