My Bloody Valentine @ Santa Monica Civic Aud., 10/01/08
The first sign should have been the earplugs being handed out at the door...
17 years ago My Bloody Valentine delivered what is considered not only their greatest achievement but a classic album by any measure. Loveless was the climax of the My Bloody Valentine sound as well as epitomizing the entire shoegaze movement. Since the release of that landmark album the band faded and disbanded. There was no wall of sound to be heard again from MBV, until late last year when frontman Kevin Shields began talking about a near complete album by the group as well as a planned tour.
Fast forward to Oct. 1st, 2008 and night one of their two night, end of tour stand when Sheilds and Co. finally returned to the scene and brought their trademark sonically layered tracks to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. From the opener "I Only Said" through Loveless standouts "When You Sleep" and "Soon" Belinda Butcher's voice became an angelic juxtaposition to Shields' driving, crunchy guitars and while at times getting lost among the wall of guitar re verb and noise, the two voices of Shields and Butcher united in a harmony that was so soothing and lovely it was hard to imagine it existing within this madness of sound. Sadly, much of the lovely interplay between the two was lost in the acoustics of the venue and feedback from the mics. The overall experience was an aural feast as I found myself adrift amongst this warm wall of sound and visuals. A few times I removed the provided earplugs just to let myself experience the true power of MBV's music and it was most powerful indeed.
The noise a jet engine emits upon take off measures around 130 decibels. The noise from the 15-min guitar/bass/drum orgy of sound unleashed on the crowd at the cavernous Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during My Bloody Valentine's show closer "You Made Me Realise" was said to have measured at around 128 db. While the moment bordered on pretension, anyone familiar with the band and it's history will know that this was not an act of sheer stunting but rather a sonic experiment. Many headed for the exits after about 5 minutes of this extended crescendo but for some reason it was one of the more unique experiences I have felt. The amount of sound energy released felt something like a warm vibrating wall that enveloped me as I sat in the back of the venue. A few times during this sonic blast, just to see what I really was experiencing, I removed my earplugs and immediately I could feel my eardrums try to recede deep into my skull. After the 17 min blast, the band hit right back into the song and concluded in loud dramatic fashion.