Kelly O

Wow. So, yeah, My Bloody Valentine are loud. They are the loudest band I have ever seen. Hell, they are the loudest thing I have ever experienced, period. In the year or two since the band started doing reunion shows, and especially in the months since they announced their first Seattle date in 17 years—this past Monday at the WaMu Theater—everyone has been raving about the band's absolute, uncontestable loudness. It's easy to dismiss such talk as fanatic hyperbole; everyone says his/her favorite band is the loudest, the best, or whatever. But when it comes to My Bloody Valentine, hyperbole pretty much fails.

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I'm not sure I can adequately express the feeling of the infamous, extended noise bridge of "You Made Me Realise," in which guitar and bass and drums loop and layer and multiply, bass jacked up, low drones giving way to rhythmic pulse, drums wholly subsumed to the primordial throb, guitars fizzing into pure radiation—but I will try.

It felt like you were choking, like the air was too thick, too charged, too electrically heavy to breathe. It felt like you were being pummeled in the chest, like the air itself was giving you a deep-tissue massage. Forget sound—speakers are really just high-powered, low-frequency wind machines pushing air. It felt like your very atoms were in danger of being shaken apart. It was like a jet plane taking off in slow motion, forever. Or, as a friend texted (because speech was impossible, even if you weren't numbed beyond words), like staring into the sun with your ears.

In the crowd, people raised their hands toward the sound, like they were soaking up the waves. Some people closed their eyes. One guy held up his hands in meditative gestures. The faces were a mix of wide smiles and shocked awe.

And this, of course, was only 18 minutes of the last song.

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Earlier in the set, the band was only regular stadium-rock-volume loud, but the songs, even through foam earplugs, sounded just perfect, minus a little feedback here and vocal muffle there—with Deb Googe's bass and Colm O'Ciosoig's drums louder and clearer than on record, reverse delay and other studio effects seeming to come out of thin air as Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher simply strummed their guitars or leaned gently into the mics to sing some half-heard tone into the beautiful sonic haze.

The band started the set with the endlessly circling, off-time guitar swoons of "I Only Said," and they went on to play about every classic song from the MBV canon (personal highlights included "When You Sleep," "Only Shallow," and "Soon," any of which songs' choruses I could stand to have looping 20 minutes to forever, at maximum volume). In the righteous glare of these songs, songs I never thought I'd get to hear live, I completely stopped caring, for a time, about whether the band would ever record another song. Still, fingers crossed, to here knows when. recommended

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