September 28, 2023

Slowdive played Webster Hall (Night 1)

Slowdive came to Webster Hall on Wednesday night for their first of two sold-out shows in support of this year's great new album, everything is alive.

At this moment, it feels a little silly to refer to Slowdive as a band in a reunion phase. By now, the band has been back together and playing for nearly a decade, outlasting their first run by a few years, and they've now released two more albums that match their earlier releases. At the beginning of the month, the band released the second of those albums, everything is alive, marking their first album in seven years and now the band has resumed their regularly touring schedule to support it. Now five albums deep into their career, the band has maintained their beloved and steady following and watching them take the stage to a packed venue was a wonderful reminder of their legacy, both from the past as well as the one in the present. As one of the hallmark bands of the shoegaze scene, Slowdive have often remained on the softer side of the genre typically associated with shredding walls of sound and while their dream-pop influences carry a bit more weight, the band proved that at least on stage, they are capable of revving up some serious bursts of transcendent noise. Mostly backlit in deep hues of purple and blue with striking spotlights cutting through the onstage smoke like sharpened swords, the band whirled together their usual concoction of jubilant, delayed, and echoing guitar squalls held together by steadfast and minimal drumming and shimmering waves of synths. Buried just below the surface, the convergence of voices from Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell added extra layers of guazey, pillowy sound almost like another instrument rather than prominent, lead vocals. The set began with new tracks that helped build an ambient atmosphere to match the serene aesthetics on stage and when they got to tracks from 2016's self-titled comeback record, the songs felt more like established hits from the band's iconic repertoire rather than new gems thrown into the mix. In the ten years since reforming, Slowdive's slow release of new music has allowed fans time to connect with older tunes for a significant enough period of time to allow them to sink in and become new standards. No longer sounding fresh and out of the box, songs like "Star Roving" now sound like essentials from their prolific catalogue. Yet while these newer songs garner warm welcomes from the crowd, it's the classics from the '90s that still bring home the biggest cheers. "Catch the Breeze" was an early highlight in the night that found the band's sound swelling to bigger proportions and building towards the towering epics that wash over the audience like blankets of electric fuzz while "Souvlaki Space Station" brought overwhelming strobes into the mix adding more elements to an already powerful performance. "kisses" is the most upbeat song on the new record and was the one to get the biggest reaction from the crowd adding more gentleness to the band's mesmerizing approach before launching into the muscular guitar work of "Sugar for the Pill," a song that combusts like many of their best with radiant effects of expansive guitar. The highlight of the night, like most Slowdive shows, came when the drum fill into "Alison" hit and the crowd erupted with the loudest response of the night, the songs sparkling guitar line filling the space with pure wonder and euphoria as it dazzled with passion and purpose before segueing into an absolutely blissed-out "When the Sun Hits" which launched the band into the stratosphere, the swirly haze of guitar strokes melting faces with majestic power and graceful force. It was a spellbinding moment when the sound and lights hit just right to create a sensation that would linger for the remainder of the night. For the encore, the band started with "the slab," the closer and heaviest song from the new album before dropping into a skeletal and haunting performance of "Dagger" which gave Neil his biggest spotlight of the night, making for a breathtaking moment that saw his face emerge from the shadows for the first time in the show. Things concluded with a resounding "40 Days," another track that filled the room with noise and let the band stretch out for one final time, flexing their massive sound in a well-earned victory lap after a night of monumental music.

Set list:

01 "shanty"
02 "prayer remembered"
03 "Star Roving"
04 "Catch the Breeze"
05 "Crazy for You"
06 "Souvlaki Space Station"
07 "kisses"
08 "Sugar for the Pill"
09 "Slomo"
10 "Alison"
11 "When the Sun Hits"
12 "Golden Hair" [Syd Barrett cover]
13 "the slab"
14 "Dagger"
15 "40 Days"

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