I don't want to rain on My Bloody Valentine fans' parade, but last night's show at the Paramount was far from the best that I've seen them do in the six times I've experienced them since 1989. Only the 2013 set at Showbox Sodo was worse. That being said, even a subpar MBV performance is pretty damned mind-blowing.
Perhaps the crux of the problem is that sound-system technology simply isn't capable of properly capturing MBV's music in high enough definition. Or, as my colleague Sean Nelson observed, the Paramount is ill-suited for rock shows; it doesn't do well with the genre's dynamics and volume. Granted, few rock bands rely on creating such a massive blur of sonics as do Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Deb Googe, and Colm Ó Cíosóig. But if WaMu Theater can approximately do them justice, as it did in 2009, one would think Paramount would rise to the occasion. But no. We got murk.
(It can't be overstated how crucial the visual artist(s), who provided stunning psychedelic vistas that covered a vast range of styles and moods, was/were to the performance's overwhelming nature.)
MBV performed their usual array of favorites from Isn't Anything, Loveless, and m b v, plus key non-LP tracks such as "Slow," "Honey Power," "Thorn," and "You Made Me Realise." One wished Googe's bass were more audible, as she is MBV's unheralded anchor. One also wished Colm's drums punched harder and crisper. As ever, though, Butcher and Shields's guitars clanged mightily, but their voices, as ever, faded feebly into the maelstroms.
Nevertheless, the palimpsest of MBV's melodies shimmered like hallucinations of mirages and the sheer erogenous beauty of them somehow arose amid the muddiness. One surprise occurred with the fourth song, a new piece that pummeled with an almost techno-like insistence and ramalama'd with speed-freak, "Sister Ray" intensity. It gives one hope for future MBV releases.
The extended noise break in the closing "You Made Me Realise"—by now as hallowed a tradition as a marathon rendition of "Dark Star" at a Grateful Dead concert—lasted a mere five minutes, compared to the 20- to 30-minutes guitarmageddons of years past. Before the song, Shields admitted that their advanced age would likely result in a briefer bombing.
I distinctly recall my pants rippling during this segment of the WaMu Theater date while fearing for the integrity of the building. Last night's was less brutal, but it still strikes awe in me how such a calamitous cacophony can induce a sense of Zen calm.
Despite all of that and because I've seen MBV so many times now, last night couldn't help feeling a bit anti-climactic. No doubt, though, some people saw whatever their version of god is and ascended heavenward. My tinnitus is jealous of them.