My Bloody Valentine, Apollo, Mcr (£22.50)

July 6, 2008

MY BLOODY VALENTINE @ Manchester Apollo, 28/6/08 (£22.50)

Fate bestowed free tickets on Philange and I for this uncompromising set from Kevin Shields and a drummer.  There were other people on stage and they looked busy, but I’m not sure why they were there.


Another legendary group walk onto the Apollo stage.  This one features a man who owns at least fourteen speaker cabinets.  Two full Marshall stacks, one full Orange stack, a couple of Vox AC30s with extra cabs underneath them for good measure, plus a couple of other full stacks.  Tech nerds can enlighten me as to the exact make / model of each head and cab and, I’m sure, the contents of the Shields pedal board, which presumably takes up half the floor of the Apollo stage, just as his backline leaves little room for anybody else.  Belinda Butcher and Debbie Googe’s amps (one each) cower apologetically at the opposite end of the stage.  I have never seen so many amps in one place, apart from in Johnny Roadhouse, etc.  Denny says that when he saw Slayer, they had a whole wall of Marshalls on stage, but the majority of them were just props.  These are all real. 


As soon as they kick in to ‘I Only Said‘, you get hit in the head by the sound.  Drummer Colm O’Closoig keeps it steady for the Loveless numbers, then blitzes out on the more adventurous Isn’t Anything tracks, like the barnstorming ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’.

Many’s the occasion when, soundchecking for a Nightjars gig, we’ve had the soundman coming down to the front, looking askance at Phil and Dan’s humble 50W valve combos and saying, ‘I need you (points at Phil) and you (points at Dan) to turn
down ….’, slowing his speech in the manner of an English idiot talking to a waiter in Majorca (‘I want ham … and eggs…’).  I can tell you now that on this MBV tour, that this has absolutely not happened to Kevin Shields.  The soundman has not come down to the front and said, ‘Kevin, I wonder if you could do me a favour?  It’s just a small favour.  I wondered could you turn down a little?  Yeah… Maybe on all the amps, if that would be possible, actually?  Yeah… it’s just that I’m struggling to get the vocals out front.  OK… that’s magic, Kev.  Thanks.’


That simply has not happened on this MBV tour. 


Therefore, apart from on the ravishing ‘Lose My Breath’, when Shields switches to acoustic guitar, Butcher might as well not be on stage, as you can’t hear much of what she sings anyway.  I enjoy a lot of the songs from memory, more than anything.  I know that he big huge, blustering guitar squall corresponds to a bassline and to a lead melody, which I add to the noise on stage, close my eyes and enjoy it that way. 

Ultimately, this show is all about ‘You Made Me Realise’.  This is why they dished out earplugs on the door.  I stand calmly, arms behind my back, staring into space, whilst Shields thrashes out 35 minutes (Denny timed it) of feedback.  It’s oddly calming.  Soothing.  Overwhelming, of course.  Some down the front are waving their arms in the air and going crazy.  Others are standing, heads bowed, their fingers tightly pressed into their ears. 


I used to dance like a dervish to this song at the indie disco.  Me, Matt Soffe, Jay Dean, Moo…  now, I simply stand and watch.  I hear sirens screaming at the high end, I hear thunder in the low end (Googe is adding bass scree to the avalanche, too), I hear the hiss of a thousand pressure valves being opened simultaneously.  Wah pedal, I muse.  It isn’t as exciting when you understand what he’s doing.  It’s magical if you think the man on stage is some kind of shaman.  That he’s not wholly in control.


Some walk out.  Without my ear protection, I couldn’t have stood it. 


It starts to feel as though we’ve been living in Shields’ soundworld forever… I start looking at the band, for the visual cue.  I mean, he must, at some point, signal to the others to kick back into the song.  That’s how it works, right? 




Suddenly, I notice that O’Closoig appears to be waving his arms in the air.  Oh, I think. He must be trying to get Shields’ attention.  Some chance…




I suddenly realise that he is, in fact, drumming.  Then, hilariously, I notice that Butcher has bothered to step up to the mic.  They’ve gone back into the song.  Kevin Shields may or may not be on the trip with them.  Maybe the decision was made arbitrarily by the others, as maybe, just maybe, Kevin Shields was never, ever going to stop.


He finally departs the stage.  Men come to switch off the amps.  The last couple of minutes are quite interesting, as amp by amp, the noise level decreases.  It all ends with a stark, staccato, oscillating bark, which I rather enjoy.  I enjoy the ‘silence’ that comes after, which is of course, the silence of all the people in the Apollo shouting at each other simultaneously. 


In the aftermath, Ange tells me later that she could smell puke.  Rumours that people have shat themselves abound.  I talk to Lee and Stu from The Longcut.  Lee is flabbergasted.  Stu shouts about how amazing it was.  He doesn’t realise he’s shouting.  Noone does, until their hearing gradually returns to normal.


Lee says, ‘everything we have ever done is just so… We’re pussies’.

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