As the final note rang out and the blasts of lights dimmed, my whole body was still shaking from what was the loudest musical experience of my life. I didn't know what to do, how to move, or even think; I just stood in place wanting more of what I had just experienced. Like a drug, the sound of My Bloody Valentine had made its way through my whole body, allowing every part of me to absorb the sound and breathe in its sheer force. For a moment my body didn't know what to do without the pounding drums and fuzzed out guitars playing in my ears. It was incredible.
That sums up what it was like to see My Bloody Valentine live.
Performing in the United States for the first time in over a decade, the newly reformed group blasted their way through an almost hour-and-a-half set that was equal parts abrasive and beautiful to a sold-out crowd at Roseland Ballroom. The show was their second night at Roseland and featured opening act Lilys.
While also a band of the early 1990s, Lilys never gained the same success of My Bloody Valentine (their claim to fame was a song in a Levi's ad) and it was clear why. They seemed to be just another boring indie rock band that listened to too many Pavement records and tried to imitate the guitar sound of Kevin Shields. While they played an enthusiastic set, the crowd was not at all interested and by the end of their set the originally thin crowd had grown in anticipation for My Bloody Valentine.
Taking the stage to a burst of light, Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Debbie Googe and Colm O Ciosoig proved why they are one of the most influential bands of the past 25 years. Opening with the ambient "I Only Said" off Loveless, My Bloody Valentine's mix of distortion and spacey vocals streamed through the hall cutting through everything in its path. To watch their performance without earplugs was surely either an act of idiocy or bravery, depending on whom you speak to (the band itself had earplugs distributed and signs up that recommended their use). I myself attempted to listen to one song without the earplugs before quickly placing them back in my lobes as the sound was too unbearable.
My Bloody Valentine played everything you would have expected them to play, with a large number of songs coming from their full-lengths Loveless and Isn't Anything along with songs mixed in from various EPs. Without saying a word, they moved from one song to the next as the lights changed from hues of purple and green to blasts of white light, all the while keeping in time with the music. Showing to be more than just simple musicians, My Bloody Valentine made sure to incorporate the use of almost all of the senses into their performance; the sound of their music, the feel of their songs (from the incredible strength of the sound) and the masterful light show.
With so much to take in visually and aurally, their set became a blur. It didn't feel as if they were playing separate songs -- rather, they all blended together to create an hour-and-a-half of a majestic noise that culminated with their closer "You Made Me Realise." Recorded, the song has a track time of just under four minutes. Live, the song lasted nearly 15 minutes, most of which was nothing but noise.
That is, noise that crescendoed to the loudest of louds. It was a noise unlike anything I had ever heard. Usually loud noises are hard and piercing, yet the noises that My Bloody Valentine created were warm and inviting, yet still with a sense of power and authority.
When I walked out of Roseland I still felt as if I was in a dream. I wasn't entirely sure what had just happened. My Bloody Valentine's performance looked to recreate dreams, or at least that's what it felt like.