My thoughts about this show are now completely scrambled. It started off with an unknown opening slot of a solo guitarist who seemed more of a gate crasher than a real opener. Not bad but he could have done more with his row of effects pedals. MBV came out on stage after over an hour wait between sets for no reason as all the equipment was already setup on stage.
The first few songs were rather weak. Not bad just not really together. A few punches of inappropriate feedback made this feel even worse. The visuals were totally miserable (I will go into this after the music).
But by the 4th or 5th song they had come together. The unnecessary guitar changes for ever song seemed in keeping with the legend of Kevin Shields (his guitar tech was onstage the entire time just standing in the shadows.) But the feeling had come together and the tunes were really starting to take me someplace.
And then after a full set’s worth of material, covering most of the known tunes and a few obscure songs, they made it real. The stories of the MBV shows that were “Like putting your head in a jet engine” all came into focus as the band began a 25 minute set of pure sonic music concrete. It was absolutely astounding. The sound shook the Roundhouse venue to the core, I stood with my eyes closed, arms loosely at my sides and it was if I was in a vast space made of pure sound. I was flying, the bits of light that penetrated my eyelids barely outlining this landscape of tone. It went on and on like a trance. I lost all sense of time and realized why this band was so damn important. “Why have they not put out a record of this material?” I wondered as I floated in the sea of bass frequencies. After 20 plus minutes the drummers wall of sound coalesced into a rhythm, returning to the song from which they had launched the hammered it out and then it was over. The feedback leaving a slow wake after the band left the stage. The techs turning of the amps being the only thing to stop the sounds.
So it was good. It was great, but about the visual content.
I have never seen such boring visual tripe as I did at this show. Wavering between “Look at the tree footage I shot on my cell phone from the car on the way over!” to “Isnt my screensaver so cool?” It was the biggest waste of a perfectly good video projector (If I had to guess I would say it cost upwards of 20K and ran about 6000 lumens) and a ridiculously expensive set of programmable stage lights that conflicted with the video all night. The stage lights were the better of the two I must say.
Never in sync with the music the visuals ran through a bag of cheap tricks in the first 5 minutes. All the songs were made to endure 8 second loops played on and on, nothing interesting or in anyway adding to the experience. I had to actually close my eyes for most of the show to enjoy it, that or mentally block out the huge screen dominating the stage. Like the demo mode of some expensive video mixer.
The epitome of this was during the concrete part of the show. The VJ (if you could even call it that) had no idea how to deal with 25 minutes of unchanging ball blasting drone. Ever 2 minutes he tried to reuse some shitty thing he had done before, nothing working with the barrage of sound. (Well for about 4 minutes toward the end he gave up and used a very simple set of horizontal lines that was at least not distracting from the beautiful sounds.) But eventually it went back to more of the screen saver bullshit for the rest of the show.
But all of this begs the question of who was doing all of the visual content? Did the venue just shove this guy on the band or is he a friend f the band somehow? I mean no disrespect to the person who was doing the work, if they consider themselves some kind of visual artist then at least they are getting good gigs, but this was absolute shit.
With the advent of lighting and relatively inexpensive video projection at venues more bands are incorporating visual content into their performance. A band of MBVs caliber has got to be accountable for the quality of visual content being presenting during their shows. I know from experience that the band cannot really see what is being done visually while they are playing. They are, after all, the screen and not the viewer. But to foist some shitty screen saver over a miraculously beautiful performance is a crime. The video last night blatantly distracted from the show. Creating a disjointed and amateurish veil which would have ruined the show had the performance of the musicians not been so damn good.