My Bloody Valentine @ Hammersmith Apollo, 13/03/2013
March 21, 2013 by Gaspar Castro
Earplugs are available everywhere”. If all the warnings in the press about MBV’s loudness in concert weren’t enough to make me raise my defences, the signs spread all around the Apollo halls should have done the job. I still turned down the plugs proudly. “Earplugs in a rock concert? Where’s the fun in that?” I regretted my decision very soon.
With or without adequate protection, the excitement in the remarkably mixed crowd was palpable. 22 years is a long time to wait for any album, but forcing us to spend that time waiting for the follow-up to 1991’s shoegazing milestone Loveless is the kind of torture that only their ear-crushing distorted guitars might be able to match.
Kevin Shields and co. quickly set the tone of the next 90 minutes: as the nerdy-looking, long-haired guitarist jumps into I Only Said, what sounds like a soft introspective tune when you listen to it at home is now a riff-powered raging celebration of psychedelic rock in the early 90s. They continue with When You Sleep, giving broody vocalist Bilinda Butcher the chance to enchant the hypnotized audience with her subtle dreamy vocals.
With no words or physical movement between songs, the band then travels from 1991 to 2013 with New You. The drum-filled, cyclical tune opens their glorious presentation of m b v, and it’s almost like those 22 years of hiatus meant nothing for their creative process. m b v could very well be Loveless 2.0.
Swiftly jumping from new songs to Loveless, with a bit of their debut LP Isn’t Anything in-between (Nothing Much To Lose brought some punk into the transcendental equation), MBV gradually prepared the darkly dressed audience for what everyone knew would be the most challenging experience of the evening. The 13-minute-long version of You Made Me Realise came very close to giving everyone bloody eardrums. For most of the song, the band simply puts aside their trademark melodic guitar solos and creates layer after layer of pure noise, forcing many of the lesser-prepared spectators to leave.
The brave (or plug-wearing) survivors were rewarded with a phantasmagorical version of m b v ‘s closing track, Wonder 2. The delighted but now possibly hearing-impaired audience had enough for one night. But surely, most will happily come back for more sonic torture as soon as the ears stop buzzing.