Live review for My Bloody Valentine first concert in NYC this month.
My Bloody Valentine famously end their sets with 1988 single “You Made Me Realise,” with its jet engine, tinnitus-inducing “holocaust” section. Like when James Franco cuts his arm off in 127 Hours, you know it’s coming, and people prepare themselves for it. When they launched into it last night (11/11) at Hammerstein, people held up their arms, wiggling their fingers, like they were about to go over the first big drop on a rollercoaster. It is, admittedly, a hell of a ride. Some people throw up!
We’ll back up a bit first. This was the first show the shoegaze legends had played in Manhattan since 2008, and first since releasing new album mbv earlier this year. While generally adverse to big rooms like this (I hadn’t been to Hammerstein since New Order in 2006), I thought the sound was pretty good, with Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher’s vocals reaching above the miasma just enough. Shields, who greeted the crowd with a perfunctory but cheerful “Hi,” took up at least a third of the stage with his wall of amps and the same could be said of the sonic real estate.
That tremelo’d “glide guitar” is what a lot of people were there to see (or hear, a lot of tall dudes were in the crowd), but I spent a lot of time watching bassist Debi Goodge and, especially, drummer Colm O’Ciosoig who played with a ferocity that matched the volume of Shield’s amps. (O’Ciosoig is MBV’s not-so-secret weapon.) Butcher stayed still for most of the show, with more time holding than playing her guitar, but her voice is still honey sweet.
It was hard to argue with the setlist, which gave us the lion’s share of Loveless, three cuts from Isn’t Anything (but no “Soft As Snow,” which they haven’t played in eons), choice EP cuts (“Honey Power” from Tremelo was very welcome), and four tracks from mbv. As much as I liked hearing “Soon,” “To Here Knows When,” and “Feed Me With Your Kiss,” the new tracks were the real surprises of the night, taking on extra gravity live, especially “Only Tomorrow” which was one of the night’s highlights. The intense (occasionally stroboscopic) light show and very cool projections added to the sensory overload experience.
Then of course “You Made Me Realize” where the volume went up to 13 and you could feel it in your chest. Don’t know whether it’s age or the need to accommodate new material, but the “holocaust” only lasted about six minutes. But it was long enough for me.
I missed openers Dumb Numbers that featured old tourmate Murph (from Dinosaur Jr.) on drums, as I didn’t get to Hammerstein till about 8:15 PM and had to deal with a line that went all the way to 9th Ave, thanks to some serious security. Arrive early for that coveted sonic sweet spot. (But I did see Dumb Numbers on Sunday night for their surprise show at The Flat where their sludgy doom went over pretty good.) East Village fixture BP Fallon kept the Hammerstein crowd entertained between sets with a DJ set of rock standards. Pictures from the show are in this post.
Tonight (11/12), My Bloody Valentine do it again at Hammerstein with DIIV opening. This is MBV’s last show of their 2013 tour and tickets are still available.
SETLIST: My Bloody Valentine @ Hammerstein Ballroom, 11/11/13
I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
Cigarette in Your Bed
Come in Alone
Nothing Much to Lose
Who Sees You
To Here Knows When
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise