My Bloody Valentine at Ogden Theatre, 8/19/13
MY BLOODY VALENTINE @ OGDEN THEATER | 8/19/13
My Bloody Valentine's show last night at the Ogden Theatre may not have felt as blisteringly loud as its show at the Fillmore a few years ago, but the band didn't exactly skimp on the volume either this time out. Between the sweeping dynamics, the tones, the swelling volume and the thundering rhythms coming from the stage, this show felt like a roller coaster ride and chillout session all at once. It was gloriously overwhelming, but it was also soothing, like sunrise and sunset were happening at the same time. Witnessing the ebb and flow and whirlwind of sound and melody was like being caught in that balance with all sense of time dispelled.
Starting with "I Only Said," MBV got things going with one of its prettiest numbers from Loveless. The band drew roughly a third of the set came from that iconic album, and the tones here were more vivid and visceral than on record. The cacophonic sections at the beginning and in the middle of "Only Shallow" were completely transformed into a sound like a hysterical UFO trying to make a landing without knowing which warning sirens to trigger and then triggering them all at random intervals.
It was disorienting in the best way possible, especially for those of us who have listened to Loveless for more than two decades now. Kevin Shields's and Bilinda Butcher's vocals could sound similar in the mix, especially when singing together, and it gave the whole soundscape of the songs an even more haunted, ethereal, expansive feel -- even as the songs hit you with a force you almost never feel at any show by anyone else. "Soon" was another track that felt more ghostly and weighty than any recording could reasonably do justice.
A broad time range of the band's material was represented in this set, including "Honey Power" from Tremolo and the almost punk rock á la Dinosaur Jr-esque "Feed Me With Your Kiss," but it all fit together incredibly well. In fact, there was such an undeniable flow and momentum to the set that the more then ninety-minute set felt like it took place in half that time.
For her part, Deb Googe leaned into the songs as though she were moving against a great wind as the sweeping strumming and striking of her bass served as the wind-up for the switches in dynamics in the music. It was like her part was the fulcrum by which the machine of the band worked, the focal point around which everything pivoted, even though clearly she was listening intently to what was going on around her.
Colm Ó Cíosóig, meanwhile, played with a versatility, power and finesse that matched the shifting dynamic of the music; he played like he was in a hard rock band when the music called for that and with more subtlety and gentleness in those moments where the sounds quieted down. But there were times, such as during "Feed Me With Your Kiss," where it felt like you were at least hearing something like the Stooges with even more warped sounds in the mix. This was electrifying coming from a band that is much more well known for its hypnotic sounds.
The new songs fit in well with all of the rest of the music, offering breathtakingly gigantic sound live that is only hinted at when listening to the album at home. "Wonder 2" found Ó Cíosóig coming out from behind the drum kit, having triggered some kind of beat in the background, and Shields made great use of is ebow in a way that has been so overdone by many other users of that tool. It was like a fast-moving motorik beat driving a palette of atmospheres running side by side and synching up together making it one of the most interesting songs of the night.
The set ended with "You Made Me Realise," with Butcher's clear vocals driving the song as the rest of the band played at a hectic pace. Somewhere in the middle of the tune, all the sounds seemed to collapse into what could be best described as a combination tornado and hurricane of sound, like a sustained volcano blast looped together into a seething, slowly accelerating burn that hit a point where it wasn't just white noise. This was white noise distorted, amplified and fed back like the pure gritty texture of a jet engine afterburner that simply won't stop.
Around this time, Shields stepped toward the mic, looked toward Googe, Ó Cíosóig and Butcher, and in an instant, the colossal sound dropped right back into the song, and the energy level of the band kicked up another notch to play the ending. Overall, this just seemed like a better show in general in terms of being able to hear the music properly. Witnessing this section of "You Made Me Realise" being performed live was an experience in itself without having to be a spectacle -- something the band has tried to do with the song of late and has clearly succeeded.