Attended/survived my first My Bloody Valentine concert on Monday night. I remember, more than ten years ago, my friend Chris told me about seeing this band on their final tour. (at Tramps, I think. I miss that venue.) He said the show's finale was what seemed like a full 45 minutes of sonic thunder and feedback so punishing it caused a gradual audience exodus until, at the very last screech of guitar feedback, the previously packed venue was about about 1/10th full.
The show at Roseland on Monday night was amazing. It was beautiful and brutal. I can't think of another show I've attended where the music was so present it really just occupied all of your peripheral senses. It was impossible to avoid. When the band played their final song, "You Made Me Realise" [correction: stephanie. i am an old man!] the controlled noise was so loud and dense and everlasting--maybe 15-20 minutes in all--I honestly thought I was going to throw up a couple of times. I have tried to describe this to friends without giving them the impression it was a bad experience--it was anything but--and it's really difficult. The best thing I can liken it to is this: it was like the sonic equivalent of the opening of the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark; you had to try your very hardest to not listen closely to the music, because doing so would make your bowels liquefy and your brain burst from your skull like JiffyPop. I knew we were in for something intense, based on Chris' story, various articles I've read about the bands recent live shows, and the fact that as the last song began all of the sound booth technicians donned those industrial headphones you sometimes see air traffic controllers or NASCAR pit crews wearing.
When the lights came up, I looked around and saw nothing but quiet, dazed expressions. Exiting the venue, I honestly had a hard time walking--during the finale, I could feel the notes whipping through my clothes and shaking my eyeballs around inside their sockets. It was more like a Six Flags ride than a concert. People were giggling in that way you do after traveling through 14 corkscrews forwards and backwards.
The best part, though, was about 14 minutes into the finale, I looked over (I had my eyes closed most of the time, because the light show was so disorienting---great for MBV's epileptic fans) and saw some dude texting on his Blackberry. Yes, even a sensory experience that overwhelming cannot compete with the raw power of narcissism. Consider yourself blogged, Blackberry guy!
[Addendum: not surprisingly, people have been posting excerpts from the concert's final conflict on YouTube. Here are just a few minutes. Ideally, these should be experienced with your eyelids propped open, like A Clockwork Orange.]