My Bloody Valentine
Studio Coast Shin Kiba, Japan
Sunday 10th February 2012
The path and stairs that lead to Studio Coast are peppered with figures – various ages, clothing mostly black. The atmosphere, like many pre-entry concert ambiances here in Japan is respectfully quiet, subdued even, there are no energetic characters whooping about unable to contain the built up anticipation. No – everyone is unobtrusively waiting – some chatting to a friend, others showing newly purchased t-shirts. There is however an uneasiness to the air tonight. Investments have been made – financial of course, tickets for the three shows in Tokyo sold out fast, some have purchased them (mark-up included) from secondary sources, but it’s not that: it’s something else. As the venue allows in the pockets of people with the correctly called sets of ticket numbers, the volume of vocal exchanges increases, and as earplugs are handed out it becomes clear what that feeling is – it’s apprehension.
For many of the audience tonight this is their first chance to see the band live, their most recent visit being in 2008 for Fuji Rock Festival and the last time they played an indoor venue in Japan was 1991 in Osaka as part of the Loveless tour. So for the majority of the approximately 2400 capacity crowd tonight their investment is more that monetary, it’s simply a case of ‘can they deliver enough to match the high expectations and the devotion’. Can they?
The set list remains essentially the same as set lists of old, and band walk on stage unassumingly. The audience instantly switch from cheers and squeals to calling out the musician’s names. ‘Hello’ says Bilinda offering the audience the shyest of smiles.
Anticipation is high as the powerful and smooth, yet smirk-worthy bass signals the singular m b v track played; new you. It has a calmly engaged yet purposeful manner, while lyrically plaintive, Bilinda Butcher’s voice emits a light dreamy inner contentment, and the subtle auditory manoeuvrings are precious and giddy as they blanket the room with wispy smoke like soothing harmonies. It indeed was the brightest of all of the nights’ highlights.
There is a luxurious thickness to Come in Alone – an almost gleeful bounce to this leaking, syrupy emotional distortion. It allows other elements to really pop and shine. Debbie Goodge, flawless throughout, is a powerhouse manipulator, her whole body, physically dragging the sounds out of her bass – if you blinkered the audience to only see Debbie it would not be a dull show.
Soon is such a gossamer indulgence – a wonder of alliterated notes. Like magic the band take the fragrant melodies and enticing harmonies and then melt them with a looping, reverberating commotion – made even more extraordinary by the imagination and audacity to decide to do so and the dexterity and acuity found to play then this way. “This is our last show” states Kevin Shields – we’ll assume he means for this tour but you never know right!
There is that point with You Made Me Realise when all the music vanishes, vast distorted-guitar, roaring bass and pounding drums – you could feel the noise shifting your internal organs, the vibrations in the air are very physical: sensations abound as they surround you flutters about in your clothes and purrs along your skin, it is both unnerving and extraordinary, all around people stand guppy mouthed, every now and again realizing they need a swift inhale of oxygen – the sonic onslaught lasted a mind shattering 19 minutes.
Back in the early 1990’s my music passions ran the gauntlet of many tribes and while My Bloody Valentine played their part and I heard the artistic and entertainment contained within Loveless, my heart was never wholly invested in either, and, when needed introspection found alternative soundtracks. Having this opportunity to see them live was a special one and I’m unlikely to forget it – it was exhilarating and inspiring. At times the music all but vanished and the experience became just that. The Experience: noise, light and the physical impact of the two on your body and senses. I can’t help feeling like the whole thing needed more space – like it was fighting the constraints of the walls and ceiling: clawing and screaming for escape.When My Bloody Valentine returns to Japan in May to play Tokyo ROCKS (where I greatly hope we are witness to more from m b v – specifically the apocalyptic catastrophe of wonder 2) I think the musicality will find more dominance as the beast of noise unrestrained will be tempered by the sky.So while I’m not handing over my heart yet and I still feel that the albums are the reason why people do then, the live shows are a splendid coup de theatre: long may they and My Bloody Valentine continue.