My Bloody Valentine, The Concourse, San Francisco, 30.09.08
Everyone always jumps to the guitars, but let’s have a moment for My Bloody Valentine’s rhythm section. Used as I am to records where Kevin Shields assembled all the drum and bass parts himself and then buried them in the mix, I would never have expected such prowess. Granted that Shields is not only the man but the man behind the man; granted also that Bilinda Butcher has earned her place as America’s sweetheart and mine by strumming and crooning and looking at her shoes; it was Debbie Googe and Celtic warrior Colm Ó Cíosóig at the back of the stage who carried forward the flame of rock.
It turned out to be impossible that the show might sell out, because the Concourse is the huge sort of carpeted warehouse building where you might hold an office-supplies expo or the Republican National Convention. So they had the stage and audience and light show concentrated at one end of the building, with the rest left open for hipsters to mill around and drink their gin or Tsingtao (such is what I drank), and also with enough light for me to sit and read the Poe stories I’d brought while the opening act, fronted by a dude who used to be in Spacemen 3, went through its paces. This marks the second time (after seeing Spiritualized open for Radiohead long ago) I’ve had to deal with that band’s detritus, and it is not a trend I wish to encourage.
But yes, the guitars. With my earplugs jammed in tight they were friendly and enveloping rather than punishing, rippling in and out of phase not wholly unlike Ligeti’s Lontano at the symphony last month, and worked pretty economically around the problem of not having twenty overdubs on hand. (I didn’t notice too many of the sampled leads that have grieved some folks; “Only Shallow,” “Come In Alone” and “Thorn” had plenty of live action with all the right pedals.) The pre-Loveless material, some of which was mastered pretty oddly on disc, probably benefited the most from the chance to open up and breatheI could have listened to “Cigarette in Your Bed” on loop all night. And the noise at the end? I like guitar noise, I liked this noise for what it was, but considering how long it went on I do wish they had incorporated some other kinds of noise. This was basically like standing in front of a jet engine for twenty minutes, and I kept waiting for it to start to warble and squeak. It could have warbled and squeaked! (I admit the nonplussed, disgusted expressions of the bouncers were worthwhile.)
In conclusion, because I am thirty and responsible I went home only slightly deaf in the right ear, and I want to rock like that when I am forty-five. Good evening.