Review: Slowdive @ The Albert Hall
‘It’s been a very, very, very long time.’
Once upon a time, (the early nineties, to be exact) Slowdive were the pioneers of shoegaze when the genre was at its peak. Britpop took over and suddenly, Slowdive were no longer in demand. They parted ways in mutual agreement that their time making music together had reached its end. Now they’re back, reunited twenty years later and making music again as though nothing had ever changed.
Encapsulated within what looks from down here on the ground, to be a small mountain of equipment, opening act Benjamin John Power dominates the stage with his new solo project Blanck Mass. Entirely focused on creating the perfect sound, concentration is written all over his face, while he still manages to convey an air of confidence, sure of his ability to deliver a mind blowing show. Punctuated with a punch-you-in-the-chest beat that resonates throughout his relentless set, his music is felt just as much as it is heard. Accompanied by vaguely Rorschach-like visuals and a simple yet effective light show, a Blanck Mass performance gets inside your head, and would fit just as well in an underground basement rave as it did in The Albert Hall.
When Slowdive take to the stage, it would have been impossible to tell that they’d ever taken twenty years off if frontwoman Rachel Goswell hadn’t declared ‘It’s great to be back in Manchester. It’s been a very, very, very long time.’ They fit back together as though they’d been doing this every day since the band first formed, fresh out of high school, in 1989. Both as a band and as five individual people, they look so comfortable in what they’re doing that it’s difficult to imagine there was ever a time when they weren’t doing it.
Listening to a Slowdive record is one thing, an incredible thing, to be precise. But seeing them live takes appreciation of their music to a whole new level, beyond what their sound initially suggests they’re capable of. Guitar riffs feel heavier than they do on record, while they still manage to retain their hazy, blurred around the edges feel. No one instrument or voice particularly stands out; they all complement and carry one another so harmoniously, creating a dreamy sound that takes their songs and transforms each one into a trance-like experience.
With a back catalogue as rich and extensive as theirs, it must have been difficult to choose just a few to perform. Some fans will have been waiting to hear the old songs performed live since the band last played together over twenty years ago, but they’ve now got an astounding new album to show off as well. Masterfully, as though it took no effort whatsoever, they perfectly balance the old and the new, keeping all members of the audience, the old and the new, happy.
Their set was a journey through time, the ultimate destination being the clear revelation that Slowdive were always meant to make music together. They led the original shoegaze scene when it first appeared and now, with their perfectly timed reunion, they look all set to lead its renaissance, too.
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