Horror stories are all over live music forums and comment sections; “permanent tinnitus”, “threw up halfway” are some quotes from a brief dig. They are, of course, speaking of My Bloody Valentine, particularly their now infamous “Holocaust” section which consists of between 5 and 30 minutes of feedback. At the Roundhouse show of 2008, the Holocaust allegedly went on for nearly 40 minutes. It was spoken about with such reverie at school that I was convinced I’d never see it. 5 years, admin fee after admin fee and smuggling my dinner (ravioli) past Hammersmith Apollo security, I was there.
So things were quite surreal by the time I even arrived. Earplugs are everywhere. Members of staff range from imploring you to take a pair to waxing philosophical about “real fans” not wearing them. Inside, the P.A gave us Beefheart through Brightblack Morning Light before we were treated to Le Volume Courbe, an experimental pop outfit led by Charlotte Marionneau. There were a lot of MBV similarities to be had – one track from 'Theodorus Rex EP' even features Kevin Shields – but there was plenty between the two. There were even some country tinged vibes in the set, particularly on their dream pop cover of Freight Train. The set gradually increased in volume and quality with the rather non-plussed electric guitarist doing some heavy weight churning, driving proceedings. Well selected opener.
Selket/Ramases ran through Colleen, Colleen ran through Neil Young but no sign of the band. Nice to see Kevin wasn’t gonna start being punctual after all these years (cue “22 years before the next album” jibe). Then the lights suddenly cut and they appeared.
“I Only Said” cracked in to life and the wait was over. Colm nodding along in repetitive motions; Debbie standing just in front, personifying rock ‘n’ roll; Kevin staring at his feet; Bilinda as the Medusa of my dreams. Earplugs in.
Classic by classic, they churned through the set including the entirety of the You Made Me Realise EP, a couple from Tremolo (“To Here Knows When”, “Honey Power”) and a handful from Isn’t Anything (“Feed Me With Your Kiss”, “Nothing Much To Lose”, “You Never Should”).
What the set evolved into was “Greatest Hits + m b v”, with “Only Tomorrow”, “New You” and “Wonder 2” being the lucky ones included. “Sometimes” was a surprise omission for me as was “Loomer”, but it just shows the sheer strength of material. Tracks like “Nothing Much To Lose” from Isn’t Anything justified their inclusion and provided a great balance. “To Here Knows When” provided the most ethereal moment that “Sometimes” could’ve provided excellently, careering into a magical last half hour.
“Soon” was a major highlight, partly due to its popularity, partly due to the fact that everyone knew the end was nigh. “Feed Me With Your Kiss” set the tone for the gig as a whole; much like “Cigarette In Your Bed” from earlier in the set, it received the 2013 treatment; drowned in reverb and delay, three times the volume. As “You Made Me Realise” begins, it’s the first time of night that you can hear the audience during song. As the cheers rise, Colm’s out of his seat for every huge snare hit.
As Kevin’s mini solo in “You Made Me Realise” gets driven into the floor by Debbie’s bass, he kicks a pedal and it begins. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? A hundred hands go up in the air and you go with it. For two or three minutes, you can’t help but notice everything shaking, including yourself. After about five, I could focus all the noise to the edge of the stage like a plane crash I was observing from a TV screen 100 metres away. After seven or so, it burrowed into both temples, sirens wailing, little melodies creeping through the maelstrom. It’s only 10 minutes and you’re torn; do I want to hear this forever or for it to stop now? It’s proper “staring into the abyss and the abyss staring back” stuff. They finish “You Made Me Realise” before heading into “Wonder 2”. If I had one criticism, it was that I felt they could have segued straight from the end of “You Made Me Realise” into “Wonder 2”, but it worked perfectly well as it was.
We left to the sounds of a few thousand people shouting “WHAT?!”. If I had my time again, I’d do it plugless throughout. If I could do it again, I would’ve bought tickets for 13th and the previous dates. Addictive would be one word to describe it with. I’m two days on and I still feel out of sorts.
Photo - Wang Ning Sin
Posted: Fri 15 March 2013