Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  Manchester Apollo  
  Manchester, England  
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

Most of us had given up hope of ever hearing from My Bloody Valentine again, so it was something of a surprise when these live dates were announced. I must admit I had mixed feelings about it. I've seen any number of re-formed acts over the years and most of them (Wire, Gang Of Four, The Only Ones, etc) were anything but disappointing. But I wasn't sure about this one, and not just because the rock snob in me wondered whether if I really wanted to see a band that, back in 1989, I'd seen perform back in what was effectively a large room, play a theatre venue of this size all these years later?

When I was offered a last minute ticket, however, I couldn't say no. The prospect of hearing tracks from Loveless, an album which was years ahead of the game, was just too enticing a prospect. And when My Bloody Valentine came on and went straight into that album's wonderful I Only Said, with its repetitive, seemingly endless looped noise over that MBV trademark guitar sound that is impossible to describe on the page, I was glad I'd made it. Some folk would no doubt describe it as noise, but that's not just missing the point, it is missing what they are actually playing. It was beautiful.

Unfortunately, although When You Sleep which followed could hardly be described as a disappointment, they never bettered this opening number, with the drumming in particular spoiling several numbers for me. I'm sure that when I saw MBV the first time, Colm O'Ciosoig's energy and enthusiasm impressed me. Tonight his drumming was so busy he sounded like he was auditioning for a 1965 version of The Who. I wanted to chop one of his arms off! To add to this, the drums themselves sounded horrible at times. Kevin Shields has a reputation for being something of a perfectionist and MBV presumably spent ages getting those unique guitar sounds right, so it seems a shame they didn't take so much care over the drum sound, because at times it sounded like some over-eager Neanderthal was hitting an upside down plastic bucket with a large wooden spoon. There were also times when O'Ciosoig's thumping was waaaay too loud in the mix, distracting from the song underneath. It was like listening to a Keith Moon drum solo with a distorted drone in the background albeit a very, very loud drone!!

That's not to say there weren't other highlights, although it's probably fair to say that as Shields' vocals were rather on the quiet side, the best numbers were generally those sung by the altogether more audible Bilinda Butcher, such as Come In Alone or the beautiful To Here Knows When. Slow, one of my favourite MBV tracks on record, however, didn't really ignite and actually sounded quite dull to my ears, but Soon was a definite crowd pleaser which certainly had people dancing. Some of this dancing was in a most peculiar way, specifically in the case of the bald lad in front of me who held himself tightly as if he'd first learnt to dance in a straightjacket. The set ended, as is now well known in respect of these dates, with You Made Me Realise. We were all aware that the London dates had seen the band conclude this with twenty minutes of noise, thrash, distortion, call it what you will at deafening volumes. I wasn't taking any chances. For the first time in my life, I put earplugs (kindly supplied at the venue!) in for this. I'm glad I did as there were times when my mates comment after the 1989 gig came back to me: "It sounded like an aeroplane taking off". And it did - and this was a big aeroplane we're talking about. One with a big nose that used to fly from London to New York to be precise! MBV also went one step further here, as apparently this went on for half an hour or so. Well weren't we the lucky ones!

Whether anyone needs to hear this for thirty minutes is debatable, and I can't help thinking that the re-union gigs will end up being defined by this extended wall of noise rather than the not exactly insubstantial material that preceded it. I went to a comedy club last year where two rather good comedians were followed by a headline act who slowly but surely lost the audience and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, stripped off to reveal a pink lycra leotard. He then jumped on the table in front of me and danced to Like A Virgin whilst suckling a small black doll. It was, we later mused, some rather shit satire on Madonna adopting African children, but at the time we sat in a mixture of wonder, disbelief, and horror. I mention this because I made the point immediately afterwards that it would be him that we remembered from the evening, and not the two altogether better comedians who preceded him. A year on and I can barely remember anything about the first two guys, but the image of a gyrating bearded man in lycra is, sadly, all too vivid. And I can't help thinking that this is post-rock's equivalent of that unfortunate episode in pink.

It was, however, interesting to watch the audience whilst this was going on. Indeed, what do several thousand people do when four people stand on stage and just make a noise at ear damaging levels for this length of time? Well most folk just stared ahead, some took photos of the light show, whilst others periodically punched the air. As for the guy next to me, well he resolved the problem by playing Patience on his mobile phone and was so engrossed in it that he continued playing when the band briefly returned to the song before calling it a day (he might still be there for all I know!). As for me, well my mind wandered off and for some bizarre reason I found myself thinking of, er, the best ways to beat a polar bear in a fight. Thinking about it in the cold light of day, however, I'm not convinced that a quick kick to the shins followed by your best punch to the chest would prove totally effective.

I've probably concentrated too much on the negatives here but it wasn't a bad gig by any means. The rest of the band were on fine form though I should perhaps point out that bassist Debbie Goodge was deducted points for adopting an unfortunate spot of Saxon-like posing with her bass at one point. But this was MBV, responsible for at least one of the greatest albums ever, we're talking about. It was a good night out, but whether it was worth waiting almost twenty years to see them again is debateable.

Set List:
  I Only Said
When You Sleep
(When You Wake) You're Still In A Dream
You Never Should
Lose My Breath
Come In Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much To Lose
To Here Knows When
Blown A Wish
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise
Related Links:

Band Site:
Band MySpace:
Band Wikipedia Entry:
Fan Site:


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Concert Review menu.