After all these years, it’s astounding that Kevin Shields—one of the godfathers of 90’s alt-rock—still looks so much like he does in My Bloody Valentine’s old black and white press photos. Maybe that’s why his band hasn’t updated them since they petered out 13 years ago. At their show last night at the Roseland Ballroom—MBV’s second performance on U.S. soil in 16 years—Shields still looked like some greasy-haired, sleep-deprived, late-twenty-something dragged from his bedroom at 2am to perform for a sea of adoring rock dorks. He didn’t move much, said even less, and gazed, according to the tenants of the genre he defined, at his shoes.
But of course, none of the lucky bastards at Roseland’s sold out show had paid $50 for stage banter. This was about hearing Loveless in the flesh… finally. This was about over-priced band t-shirts and preening hipsters. This was about Kevin Shields’ guitar, which still sounded just as damaged—just as alien—as it did 20 years ago. And just as fucking loud. “MBV recommends wearing earplugs,” a sign read by the merch table. Thanks, Kevin. Fortunately, the friendly folks at Roseland provided earplugs for free. One wonders why they didn’t force people to wear them. There are lawsuits for this kind of thing.
After a lackluster performance by openers The Wounded Knees, which featured Kevin’s brother Jimi and a surprise cameo by J. Mascis, My Bloody Valentine teetered to the stage and launched into the cacophonous bliss of “I Only Said.” MBV veered woozily, though expertly, between tunes from 1991’s Loveless and 1988’s lesser-known Isn’t Anything—each one a lovely haze of sun-burned melody and wet, swooning guitars. The latter album’s “Feed Me With Your Kiss” was a revelation live. Bassist Debbie Googe transformed its frenzied stop-start rhythm into something ritualistic and dirty—an anthem for battered lovers.
The stage-show—with its barrage of projected, manically-edited images and pulsing strobe lights worthy of a military barracks under attack—ensured MBV was as visually assaultive as it was aurally. Yet nothing could have prepared New York for “You Made Me Realise.” Lasting a full quarter of an hour, the song’s (in)famous coda degenerated into a righteous, all-conquering wail. Staring down the roar from the center of the mezzanine felt like witnessing a F-14 take-off, or a tornado blow through Broadway. The hair on your arms fell back against your skin; your jeans rippled. A 40-something woman in sunglasses ran from the mezzanine clutching her ears, leaving her date stranded at their reserved table. Raising your hands in the air, it felt as if you might lift off over a sea of awed faces to hover idly in the jet stream.
Roseland didn’t get an encore Monday night. There didn’t seem any way to follow “You Made Me Realise”… though we have a humble suggestion. Make another album, Kevin. It’s been too long.