August 2, 2018

My Bloody Valentine played Hammerstein Ballroom

On their final stop of their North American tour, My Bloody Valentine turned it up to 11 at Hammerstein Ballroom and reaffirmed their rank as one of the ultimate bands of a generation.

The shoegaze deities graced the U.S. with their first shows in five years and brought with them the hype that their legendary status has carried for decades. Armed with an arsenal of guitars, Kevin Shields stood with the utmost poise as he unleashed incredible power through his masterful strokes of tremolo guitar. Behind the kit, Colm Ó Cíosóig was an animal, attacking the drums with unabashed force and maintaining thunderous rhythms for the entirety of the night. Debbie Googe dug into some deep bass, thrashing away and never once letting loose, full attack mode powered to the max. Bilinda Butcher stood in a relatively dreamlike trance, staring straight ahead while still blissfully strumming away, blasting a total wall of sound. My Bloody Valentine isn't always a band to just throw on in the background, their albums require attention and patience. Live, the music takes on a whole new persona. The guitars blast at unprecedented volumes, gripping hold of the crowd with a strength unlike any other band. It's an entrancing experience, one where kaleidoscopic visuals almost overpower the deafening volume, neon spirals and bursts of color stretching across the stage and completely capturing the essence of the group. Androgynous vocals fill the room and at times it's hard to actually tell who is singing the songs, giving a whole new perspective to such timeless tracks. While Loveless will forever remain the undisputed classic, new tracks from mbv reigned supreme and almost outperformed the expected hits. "Only Tomorrow" and buzzing riffs of "Wonder 2" were some of the sharpest of the night, proving that this band can not only still right magical tracks, but they can perhaps better translate from the studio to the stage than anything else in their catalogue. Of course, when the rattling snare of "Soon" rang out, the crowd became alive and the band fed off the energy to a spectacular degree. The ambient drones of "To Here Knows When" were hypnotizing and sent the venue into an utter daze as more heady images filled the massive screen behind the band. In true fashion, the band closed out with their signature "holocaust" section at the end of "You Made Me Realise" holding a solitary note in a droning manner for nearly fifteen minutes without any form of mercy. As people began to block their ears or cower down to shield themselves from the intensity, the band reengaged and annihilated the rest of the track with sheer dominance. Shoegaze isn't the rarity it once was and countless bands have gone on to list My Bloody Valentine as an influence, but there is still nothing like the real thing.

Set list:

01 "I Only Said"
02 "When You Sleep"
03 "New You"
04 "(New Song 1)"
05 "You Never Should"
06 "Honey Power"
07 "(New Song 2)"
08 "Cigarette in Your Bed"
09 "Only Tomorrow"
10 "Only Shallow"
11 "What You Want"
12 "Thorn"
13 "Nothing Much to Lose"
14 "Who Sees You"
15 "To Here Knows When"
16 "Slow"
17 "Soon"
18 "Wonder 2"
19 "Feed Me With Your Kiss"
20 "You Made Me Realise"

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