On June 13, My Bloody Valentine played their first public performance in 13 years at the ICA in London. The reformation arrived stateside this past weekend, with their first performance in the U.S. in 16 years at the All Tomorrow’s Parties
festival, which the band helped curate. I was lucky enough to attend their first New York City show at the Roseland Ballroom last night, Sept. 22, and I was completely blown away—almost literally.
Many bands get the cliché “sensory assault” thrown at them without much consideration for what that would fully require and whether or not anyone would actually want to experience such a thing. And few of those bands, of course, have broken the Guinness World Record for Loudest Band in the World
(a discontinued category, because they’re too old, essentially) like M.B.V. has. Their light show is fitting, too, as abstract forms and colors are projected onto a backdrop while klieg lights flash directly into the eyes of the audience. The effect produced is not unlike rubbing one’s closed eyes to see what patterns of half-imagined light swirl in the darkened retinae.
The band’s setlist seems to vary little for its recent shows, but they always make a point of closing with “You Made Me Realise.” The legendary “holocaust section”
of this song has been stretched out to over 15 minutes of pure noise. For most of the concert, I played pretty tough and didn’t put in the earplugs I’d picked up at the doors; for the excruciatingly loud finale, however, I couldn’t play tough anymore. So loud was the cacophony that I could actually feel the air being pushed by the speakers and the sound waves washing over my body. This was at about dead center of the floor, halfway back from the stage. For that 15 minutes of disorienting sound—like being in an exploding volcano, I’d imagine—the band members are strumming their instruments furiously, though I don’t think I’ll ever understand how a couple of Jaguars and a bass can make such a thunderous fugue of sounds. I think I should point out that the show as a whole wasn’t merely loud. The band sounds really good, too.
For those of you who couldn’t make it, or for those who are attending the second show tonight and would like a preview, I shot some of the assault, below. Listen at your own risk. —Erik Bryan