Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

My Bloody Valentine live

My Bloody Valentine was in fact the loudest band I've ever heard by several orders of magnitude. But what was interesting about the volume was the way it was so delicate, brittle, almost wan–like a weird gelatinous handshake from a huge dude whose presence is misleading. I mean that in the best possible way.

The show was big–the second of two at Roseland Ballroom in New York, both just days after My Bloody Valentine's first U.S. concert in 16 years, at the upstate festival All Tomorrow's Parties over the weekend. MBV's reputation preceded them, of course. (Though I did overhear one guy ask a friend in the crowd before the start, "Have you ever heard these guys before?" Heaven knows how they ultimately reacted.) But all the talk of standing inside a jet-engine and feeling–literally, physically feeling–the noise gives short shrift to the impressive mutability of it all. It was a lot more than just loud; it sounded like it needed to be that loud, or at least like it wanted to badly enough to learn how to justify its excess as a virtue.

Earplugs were free, handed out in boxes by a lady at the merch table who recommended just taking them and saving any questions for later. The set was what was expected: songs from Loveless and Isn't Anything, albums now around 20 years old and still in no danger of being emulated fully. One surprising aspect of the show was just how strong and prominent the drums were. I'd never thought much of My Bloody Valentine as a groove band, but there was a dynamic fleshiness to the way the kick-drum buckled and the hi-hat shook.

Then came "You Made Me Realise," the storied outro anthem with the notorious white-noise jam tucked inside. Last night, it went on for 18 minutes, louder and more disquieting than I'd expected even after more than 15 years of reading about it and processing it as something like a myth. It felt like someone hitting "reset" on all the live sound I'd ever heard before, just a massive wash that stayed for the most part static while shifting incrementally for billows of low-end roar or a slight change of angle above. It played less like a novel and bawdy stunt than like a logical conclusion.

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