My Bloody Valentine / Dumb Numbers

My Bloody Valentine / Dumb Numbers: Live in PhiladelphiaLive in Philadelphia (2013)
live show

Reviewer Rating: 2

Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

"The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain." ?? Scotty, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

This is supposed to be My Bloody Valentine's year. After 20 years of silence, the band finally returned with an incredible third LP, m b v. For all the hype that continues to surround 1991's Loveless, Kevin Shields and company are still capable of crafting dreamy, heavy, swirling soundscapes. So when they announced an American tour, it felt like a victory lap. It's easy to forget now, but My Bloody Valentine's legacy lies largely in what happened in their absence. Bands ranging from Deftones to M83 carried their banner while MBV ended up frozen by Shields' perfectionist yet idle work ethic. MBV's set at Philadelphia's Electric Factory Nov. 9 unfortunately proved that this attitude applied to live shows as well.

After a lifeless opening set from Dumb Numbers (think either a sludgy Ride or a shoegazing Mudhoney), the band stepped out to play their first show in Philadelphia since 1992. The set aimed to gradually amp up in intensity, but that didn't stop Shields' acoustic guitar from sounding like a jet engine on opener "Sometimes." "I Only Said" and "When You Sleep" formed a trilogy of Loveless songs, and it sounded amazing. MBV is legendary for being so loud that the listeners experience auditory phenomena. That is to say, they hear notes that aren't really there because of the sensory overload. For context, an airplane taking off generates about 140 decibels. MBV's shows typically come in just under that. This was gloriously true for the beginning of the show.

And then something bad happened.

It started off small. Shields missed one of drummer Colm ? Cíosóig's counts into a song and came in late. Haha, human error. But then the wheels started coming off. Shields screwed up more and more. His equipment started failing. At times it seemed like it was the guitar tech's fault–one acoustic guitar was clearly not even amplified right. But other times the band would get minutes into a song before Shields would decide that something was wrong.

And here's the thing about MBV: Even though they're one of my favorite bands of all time, I understand why people would deride their output as being "just noise." So when Shields started freaking out about how his guitars were making the "wrong" kind of noise, part of me felt like he could have just bent the sound towards something. Anything. I was reminded of another guitar-centric 2013 reunion, Greg Ginn's Black Flag. Mock Ginn all you want (no seriously); live, he used a single pedal and a whole lot of training to play free form with his band. He was loud and fierce and he didn't care if he was off tempo, and that made him better. Shields could not adjust to the impromptu problems that arise live, which is why, when he fucked up for the fifth time, I left.

I read that the sound problems didn't get better after I exited. Some folks thought it was still a brilliant, albeit troubled set. Others thought it was a huge disappointment. All I could think about was how I couldn't even recognize my favorite MBV song ("Only Shallow") when it was played live.


I Only Said
When You Sleep
New You
You Never Should
Honey Power
Cigarette in Your Bed
Only Tomorrow
Come in Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much to Lose
Who Sees You
To Here Knows When
Wonder 2
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
cranster (November 14, 2013)

II don't know where you were standing, but it was the wrong spot. This was one of the best shows I have ever been too and the details were much clearer than the total assault that was the 2008 tour. Can't really understand how you couldn't tell what songs they were playing. I saw them on Monday in NYC as well and they were just as good.

As a note, I was wearing Etymotic plugs the entire time.

Hal9000 (November 12, 2013)

Haha, so funny, almost like we were at 2 different shows. I loved every second of it. Not saying your wrong, my friends said the sound was fucked up too. I see a shitload of shows and honestly thought this was one of the best ever. I especially loved Only Shallow, oh man that insane squealing sound, like a crazed dinosaur screeching in your ear. I expected a wall of distortion and the hiss of feedback but was pleasantly surprised by how many intricate layers of sound where swirling around in there. Did you leave before Soon? Incredible. I posted video under Hal9000 so you can revisit how good (or bad) you thought the shows. Cheers.

jelone (November 12, 2013)

I wrote a bush league review for a bush league show.

rabbit (November 12, 2013)

''MBV simply lacks the output to warrant such a ticket cost, imo.'' --- if we're going by a $50 cost once the charges are included, i don't think that ANY bad can warrant that. sure, i've paid that once or twice before and probably will do again, but it's never without thinking that it's a bit rich. in terms of acoustic or fairly stripped down music (as the majority of what i listen to is), i can't see any way of justifying a ~£30 ticket price to see a show, no matter who you are.

scientistrock (November 11, 2013)

Reviewing a concert you didn't stay for the entirety of is such a bush league move.

conblake (November 11, 2013)

That's a bummer. I gotta say though I had a great time at their San Francisco show - the songs were clear, melodic, and when "You Made Me Realize" played, I took out my earplugs and felt like I was in the womb. Hopefully other people didn't see the same problems you did in other shows.

cthulhuzoa (November 11, 2013)

Oof. As a big fan of noise and noise rock I enjoy MVB's work quite a bit but I'm glad I didn't pay the 50 bucks for that show. That is 50 with Ticketmaster charges and what not. 35 base price. I saw them back in the day so I didn't feel disappointed about missing them this go around. But that's alot of money considering I just saw Killing Joke a few months ago for $22 and they've been at it for what 30 some years and with few breaks - plus they were just as good as the Extremities tour 20 years ago. Also, the Melvins 30th Anniversary show for 25. And they have been non stop the whole time. MBV simply lacks the output to warrant such a ticket cost, imo.

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