Live Reviews

My Bloody Valentine live at Hammersmith Apollo

Live Review:
My Bloody Valentine
Hammersmith Apollo
12th March 2013

As a devout fan of My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields, Fender Jaguars and everything surrounding these three golden Shoegaze fundamentals, I was utterly stoked when I discovered the Valentine’s had announced a tour of their new record mbv and more importantly, that they were to descend upon London for a string of live dates in March.

To my own surprise, I am more sceptical than excited about My Bloody Valentine’s performance tonight. Almost in disbelief that this mysterious, genre defining outfit are actually about to climb onto the stage at the Hammersmith Apollo before my very eyes. My reservations are scuppered when Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Debbie Googe and Colm O’Ciosoig materialize from back stage, easing into hypnotic crowd pleaser ‘I Only Said’, one of my personal favourite tracks from Loveless. It sounds sweet.
Eager to hear some new material from what was probably the most anticipated album in alternative music since 1991: mbv, the quartet’s third album and follow-up to Loveless is unveiled with, ‘New You’. A track with an almost-Hip-Hop drum beat paired with shimmery tremolo guitar grooves; typically My Bloody Valentine, typically awesome.

Despite remaining spellbound by Shields’ whammy bar wielding guitar wizardry, I begin to wonder why tonight’s set has such a narrow selection of their new material. There are plenty of the old favourites thrown in there, ‘Only Shallow’, expectedly sends everyone nuts and pre Loveless ‘Thorn’ and ‘Cigarette in Your Bed’ receive rapturous applause from the 5000 strong crowd. Yet only three tracks from mbv are on offer tonight from Shields & Co. Is this simply because they reached their peak with Loveless all those 22 years ago? Only Kevin knows.

It is at this point when the arguably most famous feature of My Bloody Valentine’s live shows is about to commence. Midway into ‘You Made Me Realise’, the bowel shaking cacophony of overdriven guitar feedback and fuzz that literally sounds like a space ship taking off increased in volume by the minute. I’m not entirely sure how long it lasted for, but time seemed to stand still during this insane breakdown.

My delicate criticisms toward their set list now seem irrelevant after that aural telling off, however up until this penultimate track I have been wondering, “is this as loud as it’s gonna get?”. Be it the Hammersmith Apollo’s acoustics or a timid soundman I am unsure, but something wasn’t quite right for the duration of My Bloody Valentine’s gig. I know their trademark sound comprises of Bilinda’s sugary sweet whispers fading in and out of those fuzzy guitars but at some points, when unaccompanied by Kevin’s harmony; she was inaudible. To add to that, after hearing so much hype and rumour about the sheer volume of this band’s live shows I was expecting it to be a lot louder. Regardless, after experiencing ‘You Made Me Realise’ my hearing is a little delicate this morning.

I loved My Bloody Valentine before this gig and I continue to afterward. Other than a little throbbing sensation in my ears, I’m left thinking one thing; did the Valentines need to do this whole third album and tour malarkey? No. And nobody thought they ever would again. But after 22 years in the making they’re still playing sold out shows, and even if they didn’t quite live up to my expectations at the Hammersmith Apollo, they continue to blaze a musical trail wherever they roam.

Dave Palmer