One of the most striking things about My Bloody Valentine at the Hammersmith Apollo is that, before the band even start, there are signs plastered all over the venue offering ear plugs (“Earplugs are available EVERYWHERE! Just ask a member of staff”).
This ties in with one of the more frequent claims about My Bloody Valentine's live concerts; that it's just noise, with particular reference to the fabled extended feedback loop during 'You Made Me Realise'. But anyone who makes that criticism clearly isn't listening properly – because while there's no doubt that My Bloody Valentine are noisy (and that would be an understatement), they're not noise.
Admittedly, it's difficult to make out the vocals when live – unusually for a band, they don't take precedent over the rest of the music. But this is a stylistic choice from founding member Kevin Shields; the vocals are simply another layer overlaid to create the all-encompassing wall of sound that MBV are known for. Bilinda Butcher's vocals, in particular, manage to weave in and out of the digital reverb and sonic static to give the effect of piercing shafts of light through fog.
As stated before, it's unarguable that MBV are noisy – but combined with the psychedelic backdrop, it produces the dizzying effect of complete immersion in an audio and visual experience, the like of which is rarely found elsewhere. From the ear-splitting discord of opener 'I Only Said' to newer, transcendent track 'New You', there's something intoxicating about the entire experience – brutal, yet beautiful.
The earplugs start to make an appearance throughout the audience during the aforementioned feedback loop of 'You Made Me Realise', a three minute song on record that Shields stretches and twists into something more. The feedback (which goes on for ten minutes, more or less, although it's difficult to tell) is surrounding and arresting – a tsunami of sound which, combined with the racing visual projections, gives the impression of hurtling towards a car crash.
Only three new tracks are played, with most of the focus on Loveless and the You Made Me Realise EP, but there certainly don't seem to be any complaints. Walking out, most of the audience seem dazed and stunned – there's no doubt that the My Bloody Valentine live experience is one that doesn't come around very often. Here's to another twenty two years, then.