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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

My Bloody Valentine at the Aragon

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Based on the reviews in the British press of their celebrated reunion tour, I expected My Bloody Valentine to offer an evening of nostalgia when it pulled into the Aragon Ballroom for a sold-out show on Saturday night.

Though the group's last album remains one of the most inventive, influential and unique recordings of the last two decades--a record the equal of any psychedelic-rock masterpiece you can name--the legendary guitar rockers haven't released any significant new music in 17 years, and their current set draws almost entirely from "Loveless" (1991) and the EPs that preceded it.

Guitarists-vocalists Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher, drummer Colm O'Ciosig and bassist Debbie Googe quit at the top of their game in 1992, with bandleader Shields suffering a mysterious breakdown/artistic paralysis that marked him as the Brian Wilson or Syd Barrett of Generation X, unable to follow up his masterpiece. This was a band with a lot of unfinished business, and one that still sounds undeniable today--at least on record.

What I didn't expect was that the Valentines of 2008 would sound so horribly dated onstage--as much of an oldies act as the Eagles or the Rolling Stones--and as blatantly a comeback cash-in as other recent reunion tours by alternative-era peers such as the Pixies, Rage Against the Machine and the reconstituted Smashing Pumpkins.

During the group's long absence, a technological revolution has taken place in digital sampling and real-time computer looping, but the once groundbreaking musicians seemed to be unaware of it. The tinkling, toy-like keyboard loops that weave in and out of the dense mix on record were only cursorily evoked onstage, and the triggered drum parts that augmented O'Ciosig's animated live kit-bashing sounded leaden and clumsy.

Notorious in the '90s as the loudest band anyone had heard, the Valentines returned with a sound system powerful enough to qualify as a weapon. Earplugs were handed out to every concertgoer to offer some measure of protection, but it hardly mattered, since the sound was loud enough to set your internal organs vibrating.

Volume alone was not enough. Never an animated or charismatic group--not for nothing were they called shoegazers--the Valentines seemed to be on autopilot, hiding behind the sonic assault as they robbed the brilliant "Only Shallow," to cite the most egregious example, of all of its ethereal, multi-layered subtlety, nuance and atmosphere.

Even the traditional set-closing "You Made Me Realise," with its more than 20-minute mid-song breakdown of shattering white noise and endless cymbal crescendo, failed to deliver the transcendent, out-of-body experience that was the goal. Instead of the clangorous hidden symphonies of "Metal Machine Music" or "Sister Ray," its obvious models, it just sounded like a lot of unending noise.

I last saw My Bloody Valentine in '92 at First Avenue in Minneapolis--a room about the size of Metro, which they also played on that tour--and that show stands as one of the most extraordinary I've ever experienced. Throughout Saturday's 85-minute return engagement, I kept wondering if it was the more intimate size of the venue or the shock of the new that made the last gig so much better, and I'm still not sure.

No doubt many in the packed Aragon were thrilled by what they heard, especially because they thought they'd never have the chance to hear it, and quite a few were of an age where they were barely out of Pampers when the band last toured. But for them and for me, the question lingers.

Will this once timeless band pick up the creative thread it lost so long ago, or has time finally caught up with it?

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31 Comments

I largely agree, and I also wonder whether the crowd contributed. What was the atmosphere like when you saw them in '92? I was in high school then, but I know what other shows were like at the time, and we weren't all standing still, occasionally bobbing our heads, and keying text messages into our smart phones.


Maybe "You Made Me Realise" sounded so poor because of the notoriously bad sound of the Aragon - you yourself have said as much in defense of the poor sound of so many bands that haveunderwhelmed when performing there. Turning up the noise at the Aragon in an attempt to overcome that cavern is pretty futile.

This is the most depressing review I've ever read. Say it ain't so?

Jim... I mean, are you sure? Or is it possible (and I'm only hypothesizing because of others' response to some of your recent articles) you're slowly turning into a curmudgeony critic a la Robert Christgau? I'm not saying you are -- I unfortunately couldn't see the show. But damn, this is not anything like what I've heard about this particular reunion tour. Not all reunion tours are created equal (see Mission of Burma or even the Buzzcocks), but to compare them with the Eagles? I find that incredibly hard to believe, even if one only considers the quality of the songs playing (seriously, "Hotel California" versus "When You Sleep?" No comparison can POSSIBLY be warranted).

But thanks all the same for getting a dig in at Billy & the Smashing Poseurs. That always makes me happy.

Once again, a review from Jim that seems contrary for the sake of being contrary to the positive notices of most critics of this tour. I'm surprised you didn't compare them to Pink Floyd as well. The show wasn't psychedelic for you, I imagine. Your negative reviews are as predictable as Clay Aiken coming out of the closet last week.

Were MBV as good as when I saw them at The Vic some years ago? No. But they still put on a damn fine show and I was impressed, as were the people around me that had never had the chance to see them before.

The crowd was as animated as I would expect at a show where they were constantly pummeled by the overwhelming volume and light show. I didn't see a single person around me pick up a cell phone once. Most stood still with their jaws dropped in amazement.

Nostalgic? Dated? Hardly. Did you really expect them to completely reinvent their sound? If so, how?!?

As for the notoriously bad acoustics in The Aragon, the crew did an admirable job of keeping the sound as crisp as possible. However, I stood beside the soundboard and the mix sounded great there.

Jim, I swear I thought I saw you leave early. If so, it wouldn't surprise me either.

I'm both really grateful I finally got to see MBV in person and also really angry about the ear-piercing distortion that went on for waaaaay too long at the end of the show.. OMG and why? I really loved the Loveless songs and simply incredible... It really is a "Wall a Sound" and hits you harder than I can even put into right words..
But MBV you all are really jerks for doing that extended screeching for about 15 minutes and my ears are hurting something fierce this morning.. They are ringing worse than I have ever experienced and I was on the 2nd floor balcony.. There was tons of young people which I was surprised and pleased about since I'm 35 and thought MBV would be lost on the younger people but I bet they are deaf this morning sitting right in front... I had to leave and couldn't take it a second longer since I'm all for distortion but not ear hurting noise just for the sake of making your audience hurt.. I'm finally glad I can say that I witnessed a MBV show I would never ever do that to ears again. Should have put the ear plug they handed out but I had no idea that would happen.. You can't do that to your fans and you know full well that you can't play something that long and ear piecing without causing damage.. I bet they have $1000 ear pieces since they would all be completely deaf by now so why would you do that to the audience especially an all ages show is beyond me... Both Bless you and Damn you MBV!

It's safe to say I was more psyched to see this show than any other in several years. I never had a chance to see MBV live though I did begin listening to them in their heyday. The horrid sound at the Aragon completely ruined this show for me and I, too, was directly behind the soundboard. Where in the hell were the vocals? I understand the need for them to blend in more as an instrument as is/was the norm for that type of music, but to me they were non-existent and the drums were turned up waaay to high (highlighting Colm's limitations as a drummer). What a letdown.

I thought it was fun to see them do this live. I'm in the camp of folks that didn't get a chance to see them in '92 and I've been listening to MBV for over 10 years (didn't really get into them until '97 or so). I've been under the impression that I would never see them live pretty much the whole time that I've known of their existence. Definitely one of my favorite bands ever, Kevin Shields is a god, etc.

I thought the Loveless songs sounded the worst. "Only Shallow," the very song that most people will say drew them into MBV, lost all of its power in the haze of samples. It sounded really bad. I thought Soon and I Only Said (my absolute favorite MBV song) were hampered by the obnoxiously loud drum loops. Come in Alone and When You Sleep sounded good enough, although I think something happened to one of his 4 Marshall stacks (let's not forget the 2 Vox amps as well!) during the former. The only Loveless track that really stood out and totally delivered was To Here Knows When- wow. The lighting during this song, the sound...it was amazing and perfectly loud. It wouldn't be right to hear that song at low volume.

The Isn't Anything and You Made Me Realise EP songs sounded the best. Not as many loops and samples, which made the mix better. The song You Made Me Realise seemed like more of an art experiment than a song. I guess there's something about your ears and your body withstanding that amount of volume and pressure for that long- eventually you start to hallucinate. The "white noise" section went on for more than 20 minutes and I have to say it sounded at times incredibly boring and then at times incredibly interesting. I stood right next to the soundboard (right side) and during this "white noise" part I saw at least 7 people leave the concert basically in disgust. I guess it wasn't for everyone. It was pretty funny to go through that and then have them go back into the song and sing "You Made Me Realise." I found humor in it at least. Don't know if the folks that absolutely hated that part found it funny though. I heard they were trying to set the guinness world record for loudest concert btw.

I thought the show was thrilling. The Aragon does have pretty bad sound, but that did not ruin the experience for me. There is nothing dated about their music, and I find it pathetic that you compare My Bloody Valentine's reunion with Billy Corgan's new Pumpkins. Come on, Jim! What the hell are you thinking?

This is the most depressing review I've ever read. Say it ain't so?

"Jim... I mean, are you sure? Or is it possible (and I'm only hypothesizing because of others' response to some of your recent articles) you're slowly turning into a curmudgeony critic a la Robert Christgau? I'm not saying you are -- I unfortunately couldn't see the show. But damn, this is not anything like what I've heard about this particular reunion tour. Not all reunion tours are created equal (see Mission of Burma or even the Buzzcocks), but to compare them with the Eagles? I find that incredibly hard to believe, even if one only considers the quality of the songs playing (seriously, "Hotel California" versus "When You Sleep?" No comparison can POSSIBLY be warranted).

But thanks all the same for getting a dig in at Billy & the Smashing Poseurs. That always makes me happy."

Brendan, Jim's not being particularly clever. He bitches about the same reunions/revivals over and over again and praises some if he's a fan/when it's convenient. Dissing Rage, SP, Pixies, etc. is old hat for DeRo and is starting to smack of laziness because we know it's coming. It's actually funny that's he's laying it down on the Pumpkins because of all of those bands they're the only one that is releasing new material. Whether you like it or not is one thing (and I don't) but that is one group that got a lot of hate on their last tour because they didn't play the hits. Lotsa politicking in the music press.....funny that the Pixies and MBV (with exception of DeRo here) got mostly a free pass.

I thought the show was good and the sound OK but "volume" thing is just ridiculous. It's one thing to play really loud but MBV's sound is also about subtelty, which is completely lost when you are required to have foam earplugs stuffed in your ears. Other notoriously loud bands like Dinosar Jr. (who toured w/ MBV in '92) require earplugs more or less but they aren't the same type of band (tho DeRo hates them, too) and you can at least enjoy it and can sometimes take the 'plugs out. It was impossible to hear any sort of vocals and the wall out sound completely took Bilinda Butcher and Deb Goodge out of the mix. The only drum parts that, to me, sounded decent were the Loveless samples -- the other bashing was waaay to high in the mix and that along w/ the guitars totally drowned out everything else.

And as I left during "Do You Realise", I had to chuckle as I passed the groups of girls huddled near the back of the venue (no doubt their boyfriends were still up front) and then strolled by the rest of the decibel refugees strewn about the lower lobby.

So a message to Kevin Shields and J. Mascis: sometimes less is more.

In my forty-four years, this was one of the most thrilling complete assault of all senses concert I have been to. Anyone complaining about deafness has no one to complain to but themselves. Security made it abundantly clear that it was going to be loud when handing out ear plugs and stating that Guinness Book was there.

The drumming and keyboard flourishes were fantastic. The ear plugs allowed me to hear everything and experience the show with no fear of damage. This show was everything I wanted from a MBV show. The crowd loved it. During the 15 minute white noise blast in the middle of You Made Me Realise, I spent the time taking in the faces of the crowd around me and in the balcony. Most smiled. There were still some who declined wearing ear plugs. I have no sorrow for their state of being today. The sheer volume caused the mirror ball hanging above the crowd to sway. It was a wonderful musical physics experiment.

A better showI have not seen in a long time.

Hilarious review considering I watched you leave the show early. Did you think of that Eagles/Stones reference in the first song, or on your way home while the show was still taking place? I await your reply.

I agree with Jim's review completely. I was excited to see MBV (I was in high school in '92 and missed them the first time around), and while there were elements that impressed me, the concert felt like an obligation, rather than a joy. The sound problems cannot all be pinned on the bad acoustics of the Aragon. The drums were way too loud, and as the review points out, the mediocrity of MBV's drummer is highlighted when the mix put the drums front and center. I too did not like the direction that they took for "Only Shallow." The song live failed to approach the power of the album version, which stands tall even at ear-friendly decibel levels.

One more thing, it is possible to put on a good show in a crappy venue. I've seen Boredoms and Nine Inch Nails, among other bands, in some truly awful venues (like the Congress), and they managed to be punishingly loud, but with a much better sound.

It's hard to back up the claim that DeRogatis is disrespecting the show because he doesn't like the band; as a regular Sound Opinions listener, I'd have expected the exact opposite problem --- he's such a fan that no MBV show could live up to his impossible expectations.

I've seen them twice on this tour - first at the Manchester Apollo in June (a 2,500 capacity room which sounds great) and last night at the Aragon. The shows were worlds apart...in Manchester, they sounded incredible...it was very loud but you could hear the vocals fine.

I think that last night was more of a testament to the miserable acoustics of the Aragon more than anything else. Check out some of the bootlegs you can find online of the London Roundhouse shows to hear the show properly.

I have seen them three times total. Once in Cleveland at the Empire 16 or whatever years ago, at ATP, and a few nights back in Toronto. The show in Cleveland stands as my favorite show ever period. That said, ATP was just incredible. The sound was great from where I was and that is probably my favorite show this year out of all shows. Toronto was a good show, but I felt I could have used more vocals there. That said, I still had a great time.

The thing I don't like about this review is that Jim states they are horribly 'dated' on stage and likens them to some other crap. Totally disagree there, I think most bands are still trying to catch up to MBV despite all of the technology that is around. Live I come out feeling exhausted from just watching and feeling the sound. The crowds were just stationary for the most part on the two shows of this tour I have seen, but most people were stunned after the show. After 16 years, I feel that people want to take it all in. If they are trying to cash in great, I would gladly pay to see them again.

To MBV I say welcome back and I hope you stay longer this time!

I thought this was an *excellent* concert.

I was in the middle of the floor, and I thought the sound was fine (in its overwhelming way). The comments about vocals seem misguided to me - Loveless is distinguished in part by the vocals being deeply buried in the mix (I challenge the average listener to actually decipher any of the lyrics on the record). I couldn't hear the vocals very well, but that seemed beside the point.

The rhythm section was suitably assaultive, especially with earplugs cutting out some of the high end - this show *felt* like Phil Lesh playing at triple speed.

Anyone who attended this show without earplugs clearly made a mistake.

to the people complaining about the VOLUME (or DURATION of volume): you shouldn't have been there in the first place. i went there with full intention of wearing earplugs, which i had in for the entire time, and resisted the temptation to take them out and let that storm of sound into my brain.

it was my first time seeing them and i was pretty impressed, but i do wish they would have played a venue with better acoustics. the echoes sorta swirled together, but i'm a guitar geek and would have loved to hear the sound came straight out of the amps without the venue's echo. but this is SHOEGAZE, nobody should have expected the vocals to come through clearly.

the crowd was very mellow, from what i saw (maybe i'm just used to rowdy jam crowds), and understandably so. it's hard to move around when your mind is locked up by that grinding sound...and i agree, the noise jam was at times tedious but it was fun hearing all the notes ring around the room as the lines started multiplying on the screen around on the screen...and the quick segue back into 'you made me realize' was so unexpected i spilled my water all over my shirt...

you could complain about the sound or the band's ability or whatever, but at the very least, this is a UNIQUE sonic experience, the complete opposite of silence....really, is there any other band, past or present, making sounds like these guys?!

Being new to Chicago, this was my first concert at the Aragon. As I walked into the cavernous auditorium I did get the sense that the acoustics would be a problem. I walked around the whole venue and finally found a good spot by the main bar, directly across the stage. I didn’t wear the ear plugs wanting to hear the sound as clearly as possible (and didn’t suffer much damage). I do find it odd that anyone would criticize a band based on a venue’s acoustical issues (all with foam in his ears) ... but I digress.

I’ve enjoyed MBV since ’92 and didn’t see them live back in the day. Since I wasn’t the biggest fanatic, I didn’t expect much more than the simple nostalgic reunion that DeRogatis claimed to have witnessed. Having attended the Eagles show on Wednesday, I believe the comparison is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. The show was a complete surprise. It was one of the most complete concert experiences I’ve ever had. The sound and lights created a perfect transcendental sensory overload that I wasn’t expecting from MBV. Since I didn’t have any preconceived notions, it was an amazing treat.

btw, I was one of those people texting during the 20 minutes of amazing feedback noise… I was texting friends back in L.A. to hurry and buy their show tickets now.

Representin' wrote:
"Whether you like it or not is one thing (and I don't) but that is one group that got a lot of hate on their last tour because they didn't play the hits"

Fair enough, but you did see the post Jim had where he quoted the Jam Productions press release verbatim, right?

"[E]xpect all the hits and songs that have become the soundtracks to a generation, as well as special surprises throughout."

Besides, I've been reading Jim's columns since my delusions of being a rock critic started when I was in junior high (yeah, I'm that young). So your criticisms of... erm... Jim's criticisms aren't anything I haven't heard before. But I don't think it's fair to say he's just being a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian. I mean, I'm with him on, say, the Brian Wilson record being a steaming pile of crap. I mentioned the curmudgeony thing with Christgau more for a laugh than anything.

"Lotsa politicking in the music press.....funny that the Pixies and MBV (with exception of DeRo here) got mostly a free pass." I don't know about the MBV reunion, as I've only read reviews but haven't seen a show yet, unfortunately. But let's not mince words about the Pixies reunion shows. They were, at best, not very good. Frankly, watching The Frames do "Where Is My Mind?" at last year's Hideout Block Party was more entertaining than watching the Pixies do it four years ago. Kim Deal can't hit any of the notes she once could; Black Francis should've stuck with the Frank Black moniker and done more things akin to Honeycomb, which I thought was severely underrated.

As these reunions go, they usually are just for money; I mean, that's even why the Rutles and Spinal Tap came back, right? And that's not always bad. I mean, the Buzzcocks were all about the nostalgia when I saw them a few years ago, but they were still fun. And I think Mission of Burma is almost -- almost -- as vital now as they were the first go-round. And that brings me to one final point:

"It's actually funny that's he's laying it down on the Pumpkins because of all of those bands they're the only one that is releasing new material."

Again, you bring up a fair point. However, I question whether the Smashing Pumpkins are actually releasing new material. I mean, what's the difference between the Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan? When they took off without Jimmy Chamberlain, at least there was some kind of consistency. So I prefer to think of Zeitgeist as Zwan's second album. It lets me think of the end of the original Pumpkins in a much better light.

I think we can agree that Billy didn't resurrect the Smashing Pumpkins moniker because he wanted his band back; he brought it back because nobody gave a damn about Zwan, and that offended his Piscean ego. And, as you indicated, the music isn't very good. Beyond all that, Billy needs to cut the crap with the costumes. I'm a fan of costumed performers (hell, my favorite live band is the Polyphonic Spree), but the lighting and funny-looking dress on all of them, particularly Ginger Reyes, makes me think I'm watching Batman Forever.

"their current set draws almost entirely from "Loveless" (1991) and the EPs that preceded it."

What, no love for Isn't Anything? They played four songs from that record and, in the biggest surprise of the evening (for me, at least), those were the ones that sounded best. I would agree that some of the more midtempo songs from Loveless suffered from the less dense approach of the live show--"Come In Alone", in particular, stood out in my mind as being a disappointment--I'd say that the more upbeat material ("Soon", "Only Shallow") sounded better. But I didn't have the out-of-body experience that I was expecting to have until they played "When You Wake" (third song in the set, song 4 on Anything.

Oh, and as far as "You Made Me Realize" is concerned? That was like experiencing the endings of "Eraserhead" and "2001" simultaneously. Needless to say, it was very memorable.

For anyone that's interested, I found some video of the show and posted it on my blog: http://chicagoismildlyinteresting.blogspot.com/2008/09/video-my-bloody-valentine-i-only-said.html

--Jon

phew! i was worried you'd like it!

What I got out of your review was that you saw them in '92 and they were much better. I saw them in '92 at the Metro. It was an exhausting show. A friend of mine and I sat upstairs in the center. At the end of MBV's set we were sweating and drained as if we had worked out for an hour, yet we didn't move an inch during the show! Incredible. I've waited 16 years to see them again and I didn't know what to expect. Was I going to be disappointed? Were my expectations too high? We had seats in the balcony, "second row" directly back, dead center. What I witnessed was a revelation in sight and sound! Everything sounded AMAZING! I have my own permanent earplugs made of rubber that i've used for years. They made the Aragon sound like the Chicago Theatre! Everything I wanted to happen, did. The 22 min. "noise" section of "You Made Me Realise" was transcendant! I was, figuratively, transported to DMT zones of every manifestation. I've seen thousands of shows, this will be in my top 5. I get the feeling that Jim is becoming that elder curmudgeon who always states that he saw this or that band "way back when" and they were "much better then"...you poor youngsters...You're falling into that trap my friend. You're getting older...in your soul. That is where eventual detachment from joy begins. Reel yourself back in, it's not too late!

>>perhaps my expectations were just too high

Like I say, I didn't see the show, Jim; but I don't think your expectations were too high. Look, if fans (and let's face it, you are a fan) were meant to temper their expectations just because it's been seventeen years (or however many), fandom wouldn't be what it is. As you well know, growing up, I was an enormous Pumpkins fan (as was every ten- to twenty-year-old I knew). So when I read that Corgan claimed, "[Y]ou don't just roll out of bed after seven years without a functioning band and go back to [making great records]," I was more pissed than I was just because Zeitgeist had sucked. If a great band reunites, it has to be for a good reason. As you intimate, they ought to have something more to add.

I'd be awfully saddened if MBV turns out to have done this reunion gig Fleetwood Mac-style. I hope that's not the case, because I really, sincerely believe that Loveless is the greatest record I've ever heard. Even if this is just a cash cow, neither Shields nor anyone else can take away how great a record that is. But even if they never come close to Loveless again, if there's even a modicum of that genius left, we can expect one hell of a record from these folks. I mean, Dylan was never able to do Blonde on Blonde again, but the space between his last masterpiece of the '70s, Desire, and his next, Time Out of Mind, was a full 21 years, so if he could do it, why can't Kevin Shields?

What a coincidence! I was at both MBV shows at First Ave. back in '92 as well! I saw them first on 2/12/92 with Dinosaur Jr. headlining and Babes in Toyland opening, then again on 6/25/92. Both shows were brilliant and I never thought I'd get to see them again. Despite your review, I'm looking forward to their show in LA. Viva la Valentines!

I was glad to hear the songs they played, because I love those songs. As they haven't released anything newer or better, I was given exactly what I wanted/expected. The band was great, the sound was great, and I loved the lights.

It's meaningless to attempt to deny a fellow concertgoer his right to a negative opinion of the show. It's completely subjective, though some of us might sometimes find ourselves believing otherwise.

I bought Loveless when it came out back in the shoegaze days and was an immediate convert. I saw MBV at the Vic back in 92. Buffalo Tom and Yo La Tengo warmed up. Billy Corgan was in the back of the theater with a Vogue model wannabe clinging tightly to him. That show was a bit disappointing and didn't come close to capturing the sonic cotton candy vibe of Loveless. Maybe it was because I was close to the stage and the sound blew past me, but the sound was one clashing mess and it was difficult to discern which song was being played.

Sixteen years later I'm at the Aragon to see the original My Bloody Valentine. I'll pat myself extra hard on the back for hoping on the Loveless wave from the initial splash and watching swarms of music fans catch the wave as it continues to grow. When I first heard about MBV picking the Aragon I was a bit dismayed at the potential sonic disaster. Also, the Aragon?! Are there really that many MBV fans out there? Surprisingly, the show sold out quickly.

Me, my brother and two of his friends (including a Sound Opinions producer) got inside about 8:45 and decided to position ourselves just to the left of the mixing board. This view was a far cry from my up close vantage point 16 years earlier. The crowd was an interesting mix of aging indie hipsters and the younger Pitchfork sect. I had read stories from concertgoers about the insane volume for this tour. Aragon staff were handing out free ear plugs and I seriously thought about putting them on before the first note hit, but decided that I'd wait until after the first song finished.

The band came on to polite shoegaze fanfare and oozed out "I Only Said". Surprisingly, the volume wasn't that bad. The sound was also much better then I thought it would be, something I never thought I'd say about the Aragon. The mix did need some work. The samples were too high up and the guitars too low. Unlike Loveless, the drums and bass were up in the mix, which I enjoyed, but some posters above me didn't. Another Loveless gem, "When You Sleep", followed. The strobes and background graphics were cool, albeit a bit dated. I don't recall any special lighting or video clips accompanying the band back in 92. Every time I looked at the stage I thought the scene resembled a 60s psych show from one of the Fillmore venues.

As the show progressed I noticed the volume gradually increasing. Much to my ears disgust I still resisted audio protection. Watching the show I was struck how weird it was to be with this many people all geeked to hear this type of music. Also, as usual the venue was stifling lacking in fresh air. Cigarette in Your Bed may have been blaring about, but unlike past times, the odor in the Aragon wasn't smoke, but B.O.

Onstage, the band were more animated then I'd expected them to be after such a long layoff. Kevin was the lone holdout and after the show I realized how little I glanced his way. Each time my eyes gazed towards the right of the stage, they passed Kevin and continued up to one of the Castle turret to the I Dream of Jeannie dancer.

I thought the band played well throughout, the musical dynamics were intense and their embrace of the music was genuine. You Made Me Realise was fun in the thrill ride sense and like the Who's smashing of instruments from back in the day, it's certainly something that's reached the point as an audience expectation, instead of a communal musical statement. The Aragon was vibrating in a way I haven't experienced since Geezer Butler rattled my bones at the UIC Pavilion back in 83.

Reading some of Jim's criticisms, sure I can agree that some it sounded dated in the hey it's 1991 all over again, but so what, it was a great year for music and this concert didn't advertise anything but a nice celebration of that era. MBV is just now stepping into the 21st century. I'll refrain from the criticism until I hear any music that comes from this reunion.

Wow. Were we at the same show? I was expecting to be disappointed, but I loved nearly every minute of it. Honestly, they could've played Soon for 90 minutes and that would've been fine by me.

I've seen dozens and dozens of shows at the Aragon, and MBV was, by far, the best-sounding show I've ever seen in that building. I'm so used to it sounding so bad in that beautiful but acoustically hellish place (the last Chicago Nirvana show, anyone?) that I was more than presently surprised how clear and relatively echo-free the sonic onslaught was that night. In fact, it was so end-of-the-freaking-world-loud that you couldn't hear the notorious Aragon echo chamber at all. In fact, I couldn't hear me friend screaming at the top of his lungs directly into my ear. It sounded like a 747 singing me a lullaby. Gorgeous.

One complaint though, although I'm a huge fan of keeping vocals low in the mix, MBV's vocals were so quiet that I couldn't hear any of them at all for 95% of the show.

All in all though, I thought MBV were fantastic. I didn't want the night to end. Not as solid as those first Curve shows at Metro and the Riv back in the day, but brilliant nonetheless.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on September 28, 2008 12:53 AM.

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