Scenes From My Bloody Valentine's Saturday Night Display at the Verizon Theatre.
Rarely does an opening act feel menacing. On Saturday night at the Verizon Theatre, though, Daniel Huffman's New Fumes project certainly did.
But it wasn't Huffman's performance itself that elicited this response — his multimedia, weird-out installation was harmless enough, really. Instead, the threat came from the enormous stacks of equipment that dwarfed Huffman and made him look more than a little ridiculous standing alone on the venue's massive stage.
The setup made it abundantly clear for anyone wondering: My Bloody Valentine, who would follow Huffman on this night, hasn't mellowed with age. Not at all. Not one little bit.
The band had come to test the limits — of the audience, of its amplifiers, of the venue's P.A. system — same as it always has. And, over the course of its headlining set, y Bloody Valentine did just that on Saturday, alternately battering, challenging and enthralling its crowd of about 1,500.
Yes, that crowd only filled about a quarter of the venue — and that's without counting the sections on either side that were curtained off — but from the moment the waving band stepped out from backstage and up until Kevin Shields' end-of-night goodbye after “You Made Me Realise,” a vast majority of the crowd stood or sat utterly rapt, basking in the notoriously loud outfit's sensory overload of a live offering.
Actually, the audience's lack of size only benefited this show, heightening the sense that those in it were taking part in something special — a small group privileged enough to share in this unique communal experience.
MBV opened its 90-minute set with “I Only Said,” the first of six cuts from the bandâ€™s seminal 1991 album, Loveless, on the 17-song setlist. As they would throughout the night, Shields and Bilinda Butcher, the band's longtime vocalist and guitarist, lived up to their shoegaze label, concentrating squarely on the pedals near their feet, seemingly impervious to the nodding mass in the pit in front of them and the enveloping wall of sound they were creating.
The rest of the stage was, visually at least, much more interesting: Standing between Shields and Butcher, bassist Debbie Googe and drummer Colm O Ciosoig made for a captivating rhythm section. Playing closely together the whole show, Googe was a swirling, shredding blur while O Ciosoig bashed his drums like his life depended on each and every hit. Their combined performance added a bit of refreshing recklessness to the band's exacting sound; that Shields can't play all the parts, as he often does in the studio, is a feature, not a bug, of MBV's live show.
The left edge of the stage was an additional point of interest as, between the band's last tour, which came through Dallas in 2009, and this one, it's added a touring keyboard player and guitarist, Jen Marco. Marco's role seemed to be to make the band more “live;” she covered many of the parts that had to be sampled on the previous tours and shouldered some of Butcher's guitar burden.
The only prominent sample that remained was the intricate drum part from “Wonder 2,” the terrific closer from the band's long awaited new album, m b v. Its use allowed O Ciosoig to join Shields, Butcher and Googe on a furious four-guitar blitz that further enriched an already complex song. As a result, “Wonder 2” was easily the standout of the four m b v tracks that made an appearance. It's not that the other three — “New You,” “Only Tomorrow” and “Who Sees One” — aren't really good. They, and the rest of the songs on the album, are the rightful heirs to the MBV legacy. It's just that rest of the set, consisting primarily of Loveless and the 1988 EP You Made Me Realise, was so punishingly beautiful.
Among those older-culled highlights were three particularly superlative renditions: “Thorn,” from You Made Me Realise, which was so good that when Shields decided to restart it half a minute in, I was ecstatic I got to hear the first 30 seconds twice; and Loveless' remarkable bookends “Only Shallow” and “Soon,” which showcased the band at its hypnotic, mind-blowing best.
The show closed, as all the band's shows do, with You Made Me Realise's title track, the live version of which contains the infamous so-called “holocaust” section. For the uninitiated, that part consists of the band extending the song's 20-or-so-second noise break to excruciating length. Saturday's moment lasted about seven minutes — squarely in the mid-range as these things go.
Most of the crowd seemed prepared for that moment, though, with many an audience member raising his or her arms and reveling in the sheer audacity and power of the thing. Yet others were left scrambling to an early exit. Still, when it was over, when the band snapped back to the verse like some sort of invisible signal had been given, the remaining crowd actually seemed a little disappointed.
And then, just like that, it was over.
One simple thank you from Shields, no contrived encore, and the house lights came up. On the way out, the most common expression was one of blissful shell-shock. This crowd was stunned — and in the best possible way.
The audience — and the band — had given this night everything they had.