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My Bloody Valentine / Sept. 22, 2008 / New York (Roseland Ballroom)
They came, they played, they conquered. Actually, they destroyed. Or maybe they did something to us that we can't really even describe. Whatever happened, My Bloody Valentine's performance last nightThey came, they played, they conquered. Actually, they destroyed. Or maybe they did something to us that we can't really even describe. Whatever happened, My Bloody Valentine's performance last night in New York is already going down as the most affecting thing that a lot of people have ever experienced.
It didn't really even matter what the band was playing, and often, the song in question couldn't be identified. Instead, this was sound in its most visceral form, pummeling the body and permeating the mind. The fact that four people were making all this racket, even with the help of some pre-recorded loops, was no less astonishing.
My Bloody Valentine changed rock forever with 1991's "Loveless," the definitive document of the shoegazer movement but also a new standard-bearer for what music could sound like in the 20th century. Listeners are still trying to figure out how mastermind Kevin Shields and company did what they did, and the 16-year hiatus that followed the album's release only heightened the mythology.
In New York, the freshly reunited band conjured living, breathing bodies of sound at a deafening volume. Relentless bass-and-drum grooves laid the foundation for effects-drenched guitar melodies and barely audible singing, with the sum total changing shape at a second's notice. Dementia-inducing backscreen projections and strobe lights were almost secondary, but no less a factor.
Guitars buzz-sawed through the air on "I Only Said," with the wobbly tones creating a seriously disorienting effect. Dance beats restored equilibrium on "Soon," its looped melody leaping back and forth like a metronome. "To Who Knows When" was a beautiful stupor, while "Feed Me With Your Kiss" emerged from crushing waves of sound as the set wound down, setting the stage for a finale of staggering impact.
"You Made Me Realise" took the experience into uncharted realms, its feedback assault literally rattling the floor, the walls and every one of the 3,000-plus humans in the room. It may have gone on for 10 minutes, maybe 15 or 20. It may have blown the stage amps. At a certain point, it was impossible to tell anymore. Crazy/scary thoughts and images came to mind, like standing arms outstretched in front of a jet engine at takeoff or free-falling through the sky with a maniacal grin.
Then it was done, and nobody quite knew what to do. Some said their bodies were numb. Others could barely walk and had to hail taxis to whisk them home immediately. I wandered aimlessly around Times Square, marveling at the transformative power of what I'd just witnessed. And then I had one of the most intense nights of sleep of my life, my brain battered by trying to process 90 minutes in the company of My Bloody Valentine.