Bolstered by brutal percussive firepower, Kevin Shields' veteran dream pop crew are sounding more relevant than ever....
Ben Willmott
12:30 25th June 2018

He's not big on between song patter, is Kevin Shields. The frontman of My Bloody Valentine approaches the microphone twice during the first hour of what can only be described as an epic two hour Meltdown set, but he can't bring himself to say a word, even raising an arm in the air in apparent exasperation at his shyness.

It makes total sense though, because everything about MBV is opaque and impressionistic. from the obscure song titles and blurred melodics to the murmured vocals of Shields and fellow guitarist Bilinda Butcher, always riding so low in the mix they're barely audible. It's a stance that not only needs no explanation, but seems to actively challenge the listener, asking 'well, what do you think?!'

At least those gaps between songs give this long sold out audience a chance to tell them what they think. Cries of “you're a fucking genius Kevin!” and “I love you Kevin” ring out at regular intervals, along with requests to “turn it up” - almost certainly ironic given that they're playing at so blistering a volume the Festival Hall staff are obliged to hand out earplugs beforehand.

Backdropped by a massive screen onto which a succession of different psychedelic patterns are projected, the band pile into a set that feels like contains pretty much the whole of their widely acknowledged masterpiece 'Loveless' and their excellent post-reunion 'MBV' album. The centrepiece of the sound, naturally, is the scorched, trembling guitar of Kevin Shields, but it's the phenomenal drumming of Colm Ó Cíosóig that actually pushes their live presence beyond their much revered recordings.

It's his rock solid influence, locking in effortlessly with Debbie Googe's riffs often played high up the neck of her bass, that propels 'Only Shallow' into a fierce anthem provoking widespread slow motion head banging. Likewise, his almost marching beat on the later track 'In Another Way' really kicks it into orbit, super precise but full of irresistible swing and groove.

Proceeding truly come to the boil close to the end of the encore-less but lengthy session. One distinctive chord playfully offered up by Shields in the pre-song gap makes it clear that probably their most famous song 'Soon' is next, and a big roar of appreciation goes up. It doesn't disappoint, either, a beautifully strange concoction of grunge power, shoegaze, sparkle and backbeat grooviness, emphasised by the reaction of the swaying masses in aisles.

As if by way of contrast and to gently prove how far they've come since then, they follow it with 'Wonder 2', the closing tune from 'MBV'. Underpinned with a churning drum and bass sample, Colm leaving his drumkit to add yet another guitar to the bubbling cauldron of six string distortion, it's a total thriller.

Refreshingly for a band so celebrated, there's not a hint of resting on the laurels of their considerable heritage about MBV tonight. Still in search of the lost chord after all this time, they show no signs of tiring yet.

Photo: Victor Frankowski