Blinded by the Light: My Bloody Valentine
Kevin Shields’ gods and monsters re-do the Austin Music Hall
By Luke Winkie,
2:15PM, Sun. Aug. 18, 2013
Kevin Shields was alive, that was all some people needed. Consistently frazzled, debatably conscious, and potentially optimistic, the guitarist and the rest of his Dublin quartet arrived at the Austin Music Hall Friday, the frontman his usual lunkish self, draped in ill-fitted fabric and blinded by the light.
This wasn’t the first or even the second My Bloody Valentine show in Austin history (you can find comprehensive video of a 1992 Liberty Lunch set on Youtube), but the Irish foursome has a way of convincing the world that they’re the second coming. That’s to be expected when the fabled follow-up to cult sophomore effort Loveless finally arrives under the cover of darkness 23 years later.
Yet the mystique slowly evaporates. Since their storied, multi-decade hiatus, there hasn’t been much difference between My Bloody Valentine and your average touring band. They play shows, they write set-lists, they drink water, and they play another city a couple days later. Like Neutral Milk Hotel, the Replacements, Feelies, or plenty of other reunions, there’s a peculiar reality to watching a band that’s been comfortably dead for decades.
For the mass at the Music Hall, this was their second MBV show in four years. I saw them that same year, ripping open a homecoming Coachella set with the tidal wave “I Only Said.” That’s exactly how things began on Friday night. Even gods have routines.
Rippling tides of “You Never Should,” the plasmatic bubbles to “Come in Alone,” the tempered buzzsaw in “Only Tomorrow,” from 1988, 1991, and 2013, repectively – all played loudly, all in front of giant projections and glossy stagelights. The crowd, like the band, stood still. Inspired, hypnotized, and maybe a little bit bored.
Live music might be a disservice to My Bloody Valentine. Kevin Shields obsessed over each of his albums. The music on Loveless came from years of constant, compulsive, label-bankrupting perfectionism. There are rumors that February’s MBV was born after hours and hours of scrapped material. They’re a one-of-a-kind band fronted by a one-of-a-kind musician.
Onstage, however, and especially within the muddy grasp of the Austin Music Hall, MBV starts to sound ordinary. All the cosmetic subtleties and cosmic lilts are drained into angry, blurred, guitar music. The vocals, so lovingly imbued in the studio, are rendered completely irrelevant. These inaccuracies are a simple reality of the touring life, but when it’s up against a pedigree like Kevin Shields’, it can’t help but be a tad disappointing.
Not that anyone went home regretting their purchase. At the end of the night, a My Bloody Valentine show offers the endless and infinite comfort of being able to say you saw My Bloody Valentine. There’s nothing vain about that. It supersedes any objections.
Sure, they’re a band that may not make a lot of sense in a rock club, but that didn’t bother the thousands of people aching for Friday night. They’re sated now and rightfully so.