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Kevin Shields was to ATP what King Khan was to Pitchfork Festival, minus the costume changes: In all seriousness, though, we spotted the My Bloody Valentine front man everywhere during our weekend at Kutsher’s, whether posing for photos with adoring fans, checking bands, or just wandering the grounds. We got so used to seeing street-clothes Kevin that it seemed a bit odd when he walked out on the Stardust Ballroom stage to perform with his fellow Valentines for their first set on American soil in 16 years. With the amount of excitement about the performance, it would’ve been almost impossible not to be somewhat of a letdown. Right?

The Stardust Ballroom sound, which was flawless for Shellac and others, crapped out here/there: MBV’s vocals were occasionally too low, the bass fuzzed out, and it was a bummer that so many of the riffs and accents were pre-sampled (Kevin and Belinda often strummed power chords). But! It was undeniably great to hear “Only Shallow,” “Sue Is Fine,” and “When You Wake” at massive volumes. Speaking of loud: It was so loud that during the quartet’s signature 25-minute noise jam finale, the vibrations literally dislodged a piece of the ceiling.

One of us (Brandon) saw My Bloody Valentine open for Dinosaur Jr. in Trenton in ’92, so their post-Dinosaur set tonight felt a bit like a flashback. Outside that original early ’90s context, Loveless live lacks the original energy/danger/forward trajectory and feels a bit like a museum piece. On the other hand, that set-ending noise jam, which also showed up at City Gardens, was more bearable with the foresight for earplugs.

The Stardust light show was pleasingly disorienting — flashes were so strong, a friend resorted to sunglasses. Amid all of this, it was easy to get caught up in the sonic heave and flow. That’s when the set was best: Forgetting all the hype and details, and just submerging yourself in the layers of sound.

Belinda Butcher’s aged better than most band folks who’ve released their definitive album decades ago. She pulled off glittery high heels with her black dress, and kept a tranquil smile on her face throughout. As you might expect, the band wasn’t too talkative. At one point, after audience members yelled to increase the amplification, Shields agreed with a “You heard them, turn up everything.” At the end, Belinda thanked us for coming. Thank you, Belinda.

This was the setlist:

01 “I Only Said”
02 “When You Sleep”
03 “You Never Should”
04 “When You Wake”
05 “Cigarette In Your Bed”
06 “Come In Alone”
07 “Only Shallow”
08 “Thorn”
09 “Nothing Much To Lose”
10 “To Here Knows When”
11 “Blown A Wish”
12 “Slow”
13 “Soon”
14 “Feed Me With Your Kiss”
15 “Sue Is Fine”
16 “You Made Me Realise”

And this is what they looked/sounded like (photos by Amrit):

“I Only Said”

“Come In Alone”

Comments (24)
  1. joe  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    awesome videos. they sound great.
    anyone have set times for tonight’s show?

  2. EnchantingWizardofRhythm  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    all the live clips i’ve ever seen from this band have very low vocals…maybe cause it’s just that loud? Belinda with short hair = cutie cute cutie!

  3. Rob S.  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    I would’ve killed to see this live. Too bad I’m a lazy pacifist.

  4. Andrew  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    It seems a little silly to criticize them for having low volume vocals and mostly playing rhythm guitar rather than lead. I mean, have you ever actually HEARD My Bloody Valentine? That’s sort of their deal.

    I’m super excited for the show in NYC tonight.

    • well, that’s what the records are for, andrew. I dont see what’s wrong with wanting one of the greatest guitarists alive to play some lead guitar.
      as far as the sound goes, yeah it was low, but it’s low in the mix on record too, so there’s no reason to complain there.

      • Yeah, the vocals are obviously low on a bunch of the recordings, but it wasn’t always an aesthetic/intentional low last night — at times, it was clearly weird mixing … the difference between low and washed out. And, it might be rose-colored glasses (eardrums?), but I remember the vocals having more of a presence when I saw MBV live back in the day. Anyhow, it was totally fun … just a minor/nit-picky complaint.

  5. mc  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    this is the atp, but here’s a bunch of mbv mp3′s from earlier live shows:
    http://thedecibeltolls.com/two-classic-my-bloody-valentine-shows/

  6. .. wonder if he’s still trying to get his check for the Lost in Translation work.

  7. CG  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    Both times I saw them (89 and 92) you could not hear the vocals, which was fine by me if it meant more guitar, and it did. I will say that the 89 show was much more enjoyable to my ears than the one in 92, the set not being contaminated by Loveless songs and silly sampled lead lines (sure to raise ire here). It was just that much more raw, abrasive, and real. What would you rather hear, Emptiness Inside and Lovlee Sweet Darlene, like in 89, or a sampler whistling over a power chord, as in 92 and I presume last weekend?

  8. Allah  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    I’m seeing them tonight and I’m really hoping they play Sometimes, but they probably won’t.

  9. Moses  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    First off… I saw MBV in the UK this past June and they were absolutely incredible! Mind blowing. The mix was perfect, the vocals were all present and yes, the volume was monstrous yet we still heard every detail.

    Something weird happened with the sound at Kutcher’s and it wasn’t just MBV. The venue was just not eqiuped to handle music of that extremity. I doubt the sound people even expected what they were in for. Sure, some other bands like Yo La Tango sounded better but keep in mind that these acts can’t hold a torch to MBV’s shattering white noise. It’s a night and day scenario and not fair to compare other acts like Shellac to them knowing that there is not a band out there that could match MBV’s sonic onslaught. Sure, it’s easy to sound flawless at 30 decibels lower. With that said, the problem’s started around Mogwai’s set, granted they didn’t have vox so they handled it better. By the time Dinosaur were up to bat the vocals had vanished. It was basically impossible to hear anything coming out of Mascis’ or Barlow’s mics. By the time MBV had their 10 guitar amps and two bass stacks ready to roll it was apparent that we weren’t going to hear what the hell was going on up there. The samples disappeared, vocals melted in the mix but the band were tops and played fucking great.

    In regard to samples, they have always done that! If Kevin were to play half that stuff the music would lose it’s power. The bendy chords underneath everything add a necessary dynamic which push the song to the next level. Who cares if there’s samples anyway? They wrote and played the parts, right? So what’s the big deal. That’s the main reason they stopped playing shows to begin with, because of faulty sound people and critics poking at how they presented the tracks live. Don’t forget this stuff was written and recorded before they ever played it out so in turn they had to compensate and learn how to do this live.

    Readers should go check them out and make their own judgments. Who knows, this may be the last time MBV do this so enjoy it while we have it.

    • Am I the only person here who would rather see Yo La Tengo than MBV?

      • If I’m offered free tix to either YLT or MBV, Im goin tangoin’ folks. Like numerous people have already said their shows can be hit or miss and that’s why they stopped touring initially. They can learn a few things from the kids in Sonic Youth……..Much of their set is feedback and drone and they’ve been doing it nonstop for 25 years.

  10. Los Lobitos  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    Yup!!! :)

  11. “It was so loud that during the quartet’s signature 25-minute noise jam finale, the vibrations literally dislodged a piece of the ceiling.”

    so i’m not the only one who saw bits of ceiling fall down?

  12. well, call me old fashioned but I wouldn’t want to go to a < > show where most of the music is pre-recorded. I’d grant that to electronic driven artist, but the whole magic behind a live show is witnessing that music being made at the scene. I certainly wouldn’t want to pay 55 dollars to hear a computer play the guitar. :/

  13. JM  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    MBV played a seriously great set! Yo La Tengo over MBV? Give me a break…I have seen Yo La Tengo a few times and I love them….but MBV seriously were one of the live highlights of my year last night (and that includes seeing radiohead)

  14. desmondfund  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    “MBV’s vocals were occasionally too low, the bass fuzzed out, and it was a bummer that so many of the riffs and accents were pre-sampled (Kevin and Belinda often strummed power chords)”

    what? what were you expecting? thats what mbv is all about — rhythm. massive rhythm. and some of this stuff HAS to be sampled, how else would you pull it off live with only two people on guitar? not to mention on the album — guess what — it’s ALSO a lot of … samples. and what’s all that about the Loveless tracks being “lacking”? a “museum piece”? what does that even MEAN??

    they were incredible as all HELL. i say, anyway. (and equally loud)

  15. mr happy  |   Posted on Sep 22nd, 2008 0

    have to say, the acoustics of the ‘stardust room’ were way better than expected for sure. no doubt, the staff at kutcher’s (however the fuck you spell it) had NO IDEA what they were in for, and overreacted significantly with the security on the last nite. they emptied out the main room after mercury rev, after yo la tengo, and after mogwai- it’s like they were clueless about how concerts worked. i presume they only didn’t do it between dinosaur and mbv because there were just too many people sticking it out.

    but the sound system? totally pro. it sounded great, and the room was more than decent. to all of you who are complaining about level of vocals vs other stuff- where were you standing? i found the sweet spot (right behind the barrier of the first tier on either side) pretty early on and it sounded awesome. the closer you are to the stage the less you’re going to hear the vocals, which were low to begin with. i watched tortoise from right on the stage and it sounded like straight up ass.

    from the ‘sweet spot’ i had no problem hearing lou’s vox. you can’t ever hear J’s really- i’ve seen them a few times.

    the only things that were sampled where the occasional percussion loop and the occasional synth part- stuff that was SAMPLED PARTS ON THE ALBUM! the isn’t anything tracks, who few in my immediate crowd area seemed to know, had slim-to-none use of tape loops, and rocked fucking hard. even for the loveless tracks, really- saying ‘much’ or ‘most’ of the music was sampled or played off tapes is completely false. the drums on loveless btw were completely done on a sampler, colm was out of commission after doing a few takes and kevin pieced all the drum tracks together. so live, the drums had an even more live and loose feel. and kevin- guitar solos? why? i like solos as much as the next guy, but kevin shields hasn’t ever played a solo in the traditional sense in anything i’ve heard from him starting with ‘this is your bloody valentine.’ did you seriously expect him to break out some bluesy shit? c’mon…

    i love yo la tengo but felt their set was really short and tended toward the free improv side of things rather than their catalog of excellent-ass songs. i felt like mogwai should have played shorter and yo la longer, but that’s me.

  16. onceler  |   Posted on Sep 23rd, 2008 0

    I don’t get who’s complaining about lack of lead guitar playing – I don’t think that’s the issue. Just watch the vid of ‘Come in Alone’ here in the post – Shields clearly plays the lead guitar bit. But the overall sort of ringing synthy guitar part which dominates the song is probably a triggered midi sample. And anyone not expecting any of that just doesn’t understand this kind of music…

  17. SonicRyan  |   Posted on Sep 23rd, 2008 0

    I pretty much agree 100% with the inital Stereogum post and that Kidacomputerok person. The low vocals are a legitimate complaint, its one thing to have them washed over as they are on Loveless, its another thing when they’re completely inaudible like they were most of last night. The samples were also a little annoying, and the Yo La Tengo comment is perfectly apt. You didn’t hear any samples when YLT played Flying Lessons, yet the song lost none of its impact. Now, I realize that’s just me being picky, and I dealt with the samples just fine until the drum loop in Soon skipped. I had finally worked myself into a nice trance-like state (the middle of the set was incredibly good, in spite of all the technical issues and nitpicky stuff), and even though the skip didn’t derail the song, it ruined my trance. I was never able to get head back into that place, and as a result I finally heard what I hoped I wouldn’t: an underrehearsed band performing at an incredibly loud volume to hide the fact that they were so underrehearsed. Rather than let the band unravel their mystique right in front of my eyes, I left the auditorium. And why not, I could hear You Made Me Realize perfectly as I sat outside and watched the fog take overtake the haunted hotel’s dirty lake.

  18. I understand what you mean by the “museum piece” sound. I felt the same way about Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation at Pitchfork last year, even though I mostly enjoyed the set. But the clips you posted looked pretty cool. I’ll be sure to catch ‘em next time they come out here to Bumblefuck, U.S.A.

  19. gimme  |   Posted on Sep 28th, 2008 0

    plus the mbv babes are pretty hot milfs that’s for sure, not many reunion bands got that going on!

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