The Garage – 29th March
It’s certainly no accident that Slowdive have picked the Garage for a last minute secret gig. After all, this is a return to the venue where they played their last ever gig the first time around, way back in 1993, when they’d been labeled by the music press as the worst of the much derided shoegaze set. No one remembers why now, of course, but after reforming in 2014 to play a blistering set at Primavera, and with a much anticipated new album on the way, who can blame them for wanting to make sure that history is well and truly re-written?
And there’s a sense of triumph before you even walk through the door, safe in the knowledge that they might have only announced this gig yesterday but it’s so sold out that there’s even folk outside holding aloft hastily made signs asking for spare tickets. Importantly, whilst the majority of us might have been there the first time, some of this crowd definitely aren’t old enough to remember when the Melody Maker existed, let alone when they said that they’d “rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge” than listen to Slowdive ever again. A small part of us hopes that writer is here tonight, choking on their own words instead.
The band turn up and without so much of a word launch straight into a tear duct inducing ‘Avalyn’ from their debut EP. Sounding just as beautiful and fragile as it ever did back in 1990, it’s the perfect introduction to those swirling guitars and Rachel Goswell’s shimmering ethereal vocals, which over the course of tonight will intertwine perfectly with Neil Halstead’s harmonies. To be honest, we’re won straight away. It’s not like we’re given time to catch our breath either, because ‘Catch the Breeze’ and ‘Crazy For You’, both from 1991’s Just For A Day, have us gawping at their majesty, whilst simultaneously transporting us back to the darkness of our teenage bedrooms. And then we’re treated to a blistering version of ‘Souvlaki Space Machine’, with those opening chords that feel like they’re literally rattling the bones in our ribcage, at which point we completely lose it. So, so glorious.
But this is not meant to be a nostalgia fest, and there’s a handful of new tracks thrown in to the setlist tonight, just to remind us of that fact. ‘Star Roving’ is a thunderously gorgeous cathedral of noise, underpinned by Simon Scott’s ever powerful drumming, but it’s ‘Sugar For The Pill’ that really reminds us both of the band’s influence and emphasises just how ahead of their time they really were. If you were unaware of our shoegaze heroes’ existence, you could pass it off as the new number from Beach House and plausibly get away with it. ‘No Longer Making Time’, sandwiched between ‘Slowdive’ and ’40 Days’ during the encore, feels positively anthemic, unmistakably Slowdive, but Slowdive in 2017 and not 1991. Definite proof that this reunion is not designed to be just another band reuniting for a long overdue pay day, but as they always promised, to go forward and create something new.
If tonight is designed to prove the detractors from all those years ago completely wrong, then without question the mission is complete. But whilst you could argue that really, you couldn’t ask for anything else, the truth is that in the hour and a half that they’ve swirled around our eardrums and tugged hard on our heartstrings, Slowdive delivered that, and, as we surreptitiously dab the tears away from our eyes, so much more.