Friday, July 04, 2008

Live Review - My Bloody Valentine / The Pastels

My Bloody Valentine / The Pastels
Barrowland, Glasgow
2 July 2008

Words: Chris Hynd

It’s funny to look back to last November when these gigs were announced, the flurry and the scrambling to get tickets, the anticipation for something over 7 months away. And we wait. And we wait. And we wait. And now they’re here. They’re actually here.

The early indications and reports from the first shows is that they’re good, that they’ve never been away really, they really do have it together but cynics, of course, suggest that they’re only in it for the cash, happy to trade on former glories knowing that people would turn up to Kevin Shields opening an envelope never mind standing on a stage and playing those songs once more. I was just happy to be there to see a band whose records I like and who I never thought I’d see live, to be in front of those 4 people and hearing those songs in that environment. Yeah, that’s OK by me.

A Stephen Pastel quote I’ve always loved is one from an old gig of theirs that a friend of mine trots out from time to time – "another hard-working night for The Pastels" so it is a delight to see them on a stage once more. Augmented by the likes of Norman Blake and Gerard Love of Teenage Fanclub and Tom Crossley of fellow Glasgow wooze merchants International Airport, SP, Katrina Mitchell and cohorts put together a lovely, mellifluous, flowing 45 minutes of music. The newer material played drifted along in a serene haze of woodwind and brass, SP nonchalantly strummed along and Love contributed some typically laid back lead guitar vibes. They closed with a stunning version of "The Viaduct", Mitchell delivered that killer line that always slays me – "we could go far, thanking our stars". The Pastels in microcosm? Maybe, maybe not, but they went far tonight and it’s a journey I know I want to be a part of.

And we wait as the clocks tick past the appointed 9.00pm stage time. "Ha! Typical Shields!", I think to myself, "always keeping us waiting". And they appear, launch into "I Only Said" and the room, already enveloped in warmth (who am I kidding? It was fucking hot!) thanks the tightly packed crowd, reverberates to Shields' and Butcher’s huge, swirling, swathes of guitars (at the previously advertised massive volume). People nod, people sway, people already seemed entranced. The cynics would circle and say that people would do that anyway, but it was an impressive feat.

I realised quickly that the volume was being used as another instrument so out came the ear plugs and everything was so crisp and so clear, Shields' vocals were low in the mix, as were Butcher's but that was OK. Debbie Googe and Colm O'Ciosoig were stars though, Googe rocking out like a motherfucker and O'Ciosoig a whirl behind the kit, as evidenced on a rollicking and huge "Feed Me With Your Kiss". It was the second half of the set, in particular the closing 4 song burst of "Soon", the aforementioned "Feed Me...", "Sueisfine" and "You Made Me Realise" where the band became one, displaying an almost telepathic sense of each other's role and part of the sonic assault, whether it was the blissful groove of "Soon" or the white noise, "holocaust" section of "You Made Me Realise" (akin to standing next to a jet plane taking off and feeling the force of the different frequencies emanating from the stage. It was an extraordinary sensation - my hearing's fine now, thanks for asking!)

The tell tale sign of having watched something so good is the filing out of a crowd shaking their collective head at the sheer brilliance of what they've just seen and that certainly was in evidence this evening. 10 gigs into their reunion (or is it more of a "reconvening"?) has probably seen Shields et al tighten up their sound and playing to a degree that you wouldn't know that it's been such a long time between drinks. Where to now? I guess that depends on Shields and his propensity for faffing around in search of perfection but perhaps this series of gigs will lead to more activity and the realisation that 20 years on from "Isn't Anything" and 17 from "Loveless", My Bloody Valentine are still as relevant and vital part of the musical landscape.

<br />y Bloody Valentine / The Pastels My Bloody Valentine / The Pastels


I Cried A Bit But Not For Long said...

Word indeed. I thought The Pastels were great. A hugely enjoyable set. At the risk of sounding like one o' thae folk wi' the laptop sized bag diagonally ower the shodders, they have a beautifully natural and organic sound that seems to be filtered though none of the style + zeitgest + 'technical perfection' settings which the majority of bands have in operation. I've never heard a clearer manifestation of the viewpoint of the romantic and the dreamer. I find that, in basic terms, I'm lifted whenever I hear them. Pure fare indeed. After hearing The Pastels, I feel better about music. As for MBV, I think I dug the show mainly because it's appeal was so totally intangible. Butcher and Shields are detached presences on stage, there is little outward attempt to 'engage' wi folk yet somehow all told the night seemed like a very communal and shared experience. I don't know quite why that is! It could be the fact that we're all being deafened and suffering gamely at the same time or it could be the curse of nostalgia destroying my objectivity or it might just be confirmation for me that the concept of 'performance' as we know it in these times is wholly redundant. They simply played their songs and in so doing a kind of eerie sense of greatness or integrity appeared and you became carried away in what they were doing. I am genuinely struggling to put ma finger on it but I loved them even tho' I could see them doing things which might annoy me in other contexts! What's up with that? I really don't know.

robot hero said...

cool write-up, chris. i can't wait for them to hit SF.