Uncut Editor's Diary

My Bloody Valentine - London Roundhouse, June 23 2008

Allan Jones

I was just picking up my ticket and earplugs when Patti Smith was ushered through the crowd in front of me. I would have said hello, but the last time I spoke to her she threw a plate of sandwiches at me after I described her then-boyfriend, Allen Lanier of Blue Oyster Cult, as a ‘certifiable midget’.

This was an uncommonly rude remark, I now realise, though I will say in nervous mitigation that at the time I’d recently seen BOC at Hammersmith Odeon and been struck by the thought that if it finally went tits up for the band they would all be assured of futures of some consequence as those wee clowns in the circus who are forever dashing hither, and amusingly yon, at high speed, running between the legs of men on stilts and throwing buckets of water over the crowd.

Meanwhile, I’m now wondering what’s happening on stage, from which vicinity I can hear something that sounds like someone with no teeth to speak of attempting to bark like a dog. It turns out to be tonight’s support, Graham Coxon, who is gamely battling the audience’s growing anticipation for My Bloody Valentine.

In the bar, I speak to several hardened MBV veterans who are almost beside themselves with excitement, and simultaneously apprehensive. Would the band live up to their vaulted expectations, their recollections of those shows 20 years ago that remain vivid in their memory?

A chap named Ian, who had last seen them at Brixton Academy on the Rollercoaster tour, is particularly anxious. Back in the day, he’d been such a Valentines fan that when they split, he actually stopped going to gigs, and recently has only been to see Alicia Keys, his wife being a fan. She didn’t want to come tonight, so he’s brought his mate Kevin, who’s heard a lot from Ian about how brilliant MBV at one time were that even he’s worried about whether they can possibly match their own reputation.

They do, of course, as John Mulvey vividly described in his Wild Mercury blog on uncut.co.uk. I saw the band several times back whenever, and they were never as great then as they are tonight when at times they sound like nothing else I’ve ever heard. As John pointed out, what’s happened in many ways is that technology’s caught up with them and we can now share more clearly Kevin Shields’ vision of what he always wanted them to sound like.

The volume, as promised is extraordinary, but it’s not just the noise that blows me away – it’s the sheer unbelievable intensity, the utter density, of the sound, the layered sheets of guitars and sequencers, the cavernous rumblings of the rhythm section – Debbie Gould playing bass like Joe Strummer used to play rhythm guitar, which is to say with an absolute relentlessness, Colm O’Closoig’s drumming the colossal rhythmic ballast holding firm at the centre of the deafening hum.

The by-now celebrated final 25 minutes of “You Made Me Realise” is truly astonishing – Neil Young’s similar guitar apocalypse on “Hidden Path”, as played a few months ago on his recent tour, merely hinting at this jaw-dropping meltdown, My Bloody Valentine here speaking to us in a musical language that is wholly their own.

I hope Patti enjoyed it as much as I did.


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