My Bloody Valentine at Kool Haus – November 5, 2013

A not-so-funny thing happened to me leading up to My Bloody Valentine tonight.  A visit to the doctor’s office to clean my ears resulted in a ruptured eardrum thanks to an equipment malfunction.

If you’ve heard the legend of the Irish quartet’s volume at gigs, you are probably wondering why I had them cleaned before the show.  The resulting injury was something I expected to happen during the show, not the night before.

This was my fourth time seeing the band in Toronto, but this would go down in my history as the first time I’ve EVER worn earplugs – ever!  The sign at the door warning of dangerous volume levels and the distribution of earplugs, not a threat, but a promise, was a luxury not afforded to those of us who attended the Loveless gigs.  Tonight I would heed the advice with an extra pair of headphones to be safe, as the legend is absolutely true.  In all my concert going years, I’ve never heard volume pumped out like these guys.

My Bloody Valentine finally got around to releasing the follow up to Loveless.  22 years later, m b v was something I never expected to happen, like world peace – the idea was there but the reality distant.  The album is a worthy successor in the band’s canon so I had high expectations for tonight, hence the ear cleaning.

But something’s not right tonight.  The crowd is listless, the set list’s pacing is off, the sound at the Kool Haus is overwhelmed by the band and something is up on stage as there were many re-starts including “Thorn” which was aborted after three attempts.

Opening with a trio from Loveless; the drone-y “Sometimes” “I Only Said” and “When You Sleep” the band were on form initially, but seemed to lose their tightness by “Honey Power”.  The new material sounded good but was a bit of deadweight nestled in between their older and faster material.

Watching the band perform is like watching two different bands.  Bassist Debbie Googe and drummer Colm O’Ciosaig attack their instruments like Animals from the Muppets,  while guitarists Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher barely move other than their arms over their guitars.  But at points tonight, it sounds like listening to two different bands, especially on “Feed Me with Your Kiss” and “Soon”.  Lost in the mix was some guitar, resulting in a deflated “Only Shallow”.

“You Made Me Realize” is worth the price of admission alone and is the subject of their legend.  Consistently the band’s set closer, the song is 3 minutes of blistering post-punk with a one-chord breakdown that has been dubbed “The Holocaust Section”.  It has to be experienced to be understood but the one chord is frantically played and mangled for an extended period of time.  Imagine sticking your head in a jet’s engine as it fires up for takeoff and you’re getting close.  Truly the sound of the apocalypse, the screen projections rapidly scroll the visual equivalent while you wonder if your bones can withstand the crushing onslaught.  Girlfriends start grabbing their boyfriends and hauling them out to the exit 2 minutes in.  Tonight the crowd gets off easy with only 9 minutes before they break back into the song to finish it off.

At 9 minutes it is the shortest Holocaust section (14, 18, 23 minutes previously) and the one resulting in the most left standing at the end.  While still cathartic, tonight is a disappointment and all factors seemed to contribute, even the damn earplugs.  But I’m really glad I wore them.

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Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.

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