Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Concert review = My Bloody Valentine @ SF Concourse (w/ setlist)

My Bloody Valentine, the 90's alternative rock band, performed last night in San Francisco as part of the North American leg of their reunion tour. The Irish foursome, led by American-born Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher, played at the sold-out Concourse @ the San Francisco Design Center, which is perhaps the only venue in the city that can make the Bill Graham Civic seem like a cozy place to see a show - more on this in a moment. Opening for MBV were the Suzanne Thorpe Trio (lame) and the also-recently-reunited Spectrum (much better). MBV took the stage at approximately 10:30, and played until midnight.

Here's the setlist from the evening, with the songs' albums in brackets.

1. I Only Said [from Loveless]

2. When You Sleep [from Loveless]

3. You Never Should [from Isn't Anything]

4. (When You Wake) You're Still In a Dream [from Isn't Anything]

5. Cigarette In Your Bed [from You Made Me Realise EP]

6. Come In Alone [from Loveless]

7. Only Shallow [from Loveless]

8. Thorn [from You Made Me Realise EP]

9. Nothing Much to Lose [from Isn't Anything]

10. To Here Knows When [from Loveless]

11. Slow [from You Made Me Realise EP]

12. Soon [from Loveless]

13. Feed Me With Your Kiss [from Isn't Anything]

14. You Made Me Realise [from You Made Me Realise EP]

I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to this show - the first time I put on Loveless, its opening track "Only Shallow" pummeled my eardrums with what sounded like the love child of an electric cello and a chainsaw... until I realized the sounds I was hearing were guitars. It was love at first... listen. The multi-layered guitars and dreamy vocals were seminal - it's no wonder that Loveless is often cited as one of the most influential albums of all time (even though it's only 17 years old).

My Bloody Valentine themselves were mostly fantastic - personal highlights from their set (which didn't have a traditional encore - more on that in a moment) included their dual whammy openers "I Only Said" and "When You Sleep," the first Isn't Anything track that night, "You Never Should," and "Soon" (which was absolutely marvelous). Sadly, "Only Shallow" was not as good as I expected (very murky sound) - but I had astronomical hopes to begin with.

Unfortunately for both the fans and the band, the Concourse's audio left much to be desired - or heard. Both Kevin and Bilinda's audio was far too low to be audible - the fact that the guitars were turned to 14 (Spinal Tap would be proud) would seem to be an explanation for washed out vocals, but regardless of the reason, I was disappointed.

Considering the layout of the Concourse (it feels like an airplane hangar), it may have been appropriate that they closed their show with a 20 minute sonic experiment that sounded like a jet engine combined with the roar of Niagara Falls - and about as monotonous, but with higher decibels. The sound waves produced literally shook my body - but did little else to make me want to gyrate. Hardened concert-goers were plugging their ears, even WITH their earplugs already in place (thank goodness I had mine). About three minutes before the end of this auditory masturbation session, I decided that I had had enough, and started towards the exit to get a jump on things. On my way out I passed directly in front of a rear speaker, and got pushed forward by the bass waves - that's how loud it was inside.

It's a shame that MBV (or their management) didn't select a more appropriate venue - the Warfield would have been sublime, and cozier; the band could have even done two shows, a la Nick Cave (see my earlier post).

Still - the future looks bright for My Bloody Valentine and their fans, as the band has given signs that they are recording new material, though none was heard last night (unless the 20 minute sonic boom counts). To be continued...
[NOTE = the picture is property of SF Weekly, not yours truly]

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