- by Tim Sentz Rating: Release Date: Label:
When Kevin Shields spoke earlier this year that new material from his iconic shoegaze project My Bloody Valentine would be released in 2018, I knew right away that they’d be touring the U.S., and more specifically that the closest they’d be playing would be St. Paul. Back in 2013 on the mbv tour, they played Denver and St. Paul. I had every intention then to see them, but plans fell through. MBV has been my number one bucket list band to see for years, and missing that show was a gut punch. I thought I’d never get the opportunity again.
Thankfully, they returned, and while only a few dates on this tour, they’ve given their fans another must-see show. Setlist wise, die-hards of the band won’t find much deviation from their last tour except for the handful of new songs that are in line to show up on some form of release this year – EP or LP, nothings been confirmed. But MBV returned to St. Paul Wednesday night for one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
After a brief technical issue with Colm O Ciosoig’s drum output, the Dubliners launched into a 20- song set, with very little room in between. Almost no banter between. Shields is masterful on stage, sentient, but focused on his array of pedals. The intro trifecta of “I Only Said,” “When You Sleep” and “New You” was the perfect kick-off. Swirling psychedelics from the projector hypnotized the audience, “New You” being the main standout as it represented an appropriate segue into the first new song of the evening. The as-of-yet untitled cut was thunderous, with intense bass lines and crackling distortion. I felt the hairs on my head vibrating, my hat shook, and after five minutes I had to excuse myself to the restroom.
Earplugs were a necessary companion, they were handed out for free by the band before the show started and throughout. The second new song came after a few older hits and was a bit more accessible for MBV standards, an early candidate for a single from the upcoming release. Warm guitars, the kind you feel in your heart, cascaded upon the Minnesota crowd. It’s hard to explain exactly what was heard, my body was still recovering from the previous new track, but this second one is a crowd pleaser and sounded more like the mbv material that folks will enjoy no doubt.
Some songs didn’t seem to fit though, namely the early post-punk material from the band's pre-Loveless era. It was great to hear them but breaking up the noise with songs like “Slow” just seemed more a disruption than an actual cohesiveness that Loveless songs like “What You Want” did perfectly. Not really a criticism of the material, more an oddball comment about the structure of the setlist. They were likely used as palette cleansers, break up the monotony of shoegaze classics, and they were welcome, just felt a tiny bit out of place compared to the rest of the set.
The last release from MBV was their 2013 comeback album mbv, and one of my fears was that this material would not be as strong live as Loveless material. This was not the case – “Only Tomorrow” was spectacular and gave us a moment of Zen as the elegant Bilinda Butcher harmonized with the noise, “Who Sees You” was enthralling, and “Wonder 2” was the necessary detour and before the finale. My favorite MBV track was naturally the primary highlight of the evening – “Soon.” Changing up their visuals, the piercing rainbow lights pulsated the surreal moment for me.
In the end, My Bloody Valentine delivered a spectacle of a show, complete with “You Made Me Realise” and a 3-minute sound barrage often referred to as the “holocaust.” It was deafening, but quite a sight to behold. I removed my earplugs for only one moment during “Soon” as I wanted to hear it unfiltered, and it was worth it. I took in only one minute of its glory, but that was sufficient. Shields and co. are back in full form, bringing classics and hints of the future. And if the two songs played Wednesday are any indication of that future, it’s going to be wonderful.