When you go to a gig and they hand out free protective ear gear, you know you’re in for an experience.
Queuing at the O2 Institute in Birmingham to watch My Bloody Valentine (MBV), reminded me of waiting in line for the ‘Big One’ at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Whilst I was excited at the prospect of what was to come, I was also pretty nervous about whether I would make it out alive; and if so with all body parts intact and functioning. Being handed foam earplugs at the door didn’t really ease any trepidation either, instead acting as the musical equivalent of the ‘This is your final chance to leg it if you don’t think you can handle it’ safety notice.
The band came on around 9pm kicking straight off with ‘I Only Said’ and BOOOOM. There it was. The point of no return, the ride had well and truly started. Not wanting to be that kid in the YouTube video (“Help me Janice… Janice it hurts… JANICE I’M FALLING!”) I securely buckled in my ears and let what was about to happen, happen.
It had been five years since MBV last played live and it’s fair to say there were a few technical issues. The vocal mics were set incredibly low meaning that anything that came from the mouths of frontman Kevin Shields or co-vocalist Bilinda Butcher was received as an inaudible mumble, especially as all instruments were most definitely turned up to 11. I’m reliably informed by MBV gig-goers more experienced than I that this is the norm, however as someone who loves the band because of the sheer contrast of the shoegazy singing over roaring distorted noise, I would have liked to have heard their voices more – a sentiment shared vocally by a few people in the crowd too.
With Shields tinkering away with his amp, guitars, pedals and effects like a genius alchemist creating magic in his lab, we were treated to a cracking set list with the likes of ‘Only Sleeping’, ‘Honey Power’ and ‘Cigarette in Your Bed’, conducted with such power I discovered eyeballs can actually vibrate. The audience pleaser ‘Only Shallow’ was another with intermittent volume problems, but for all the issues experienced, there’s no denying – when it works, it really works.
Even thirty plus years later there is no-one quite like this band, producing sounds both hypnotic and bizarre in equal measures. In fact MBV have more layers than the time I had to wear multiple jumpers on a Ryan Air flight as I had exceeded my baggage allowance, so any ‘warm-up’ problems whilst gigging for the first time in half a decade, will certainly be forgiven by me. Saying that, I’m not sure my ringing lugholes will be quite so forgiving though…”JANICE MY EARS!”
I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
Cigarette in Your Bed
What you Want
Nothing Much to Lose
Who Sees You
To Here Knows When
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise