French law thwarts My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine

(Bilinda Butcher, My Bloody Valentine, photo by cvodb)

Free ear plugs – the proper inner ear kind – were given out at the door, but it didn’t help the band one bit. The French promotors thought My Bloody Valentine’s volume was dangerous and their sound techs adjusted accordingly. Singer/guitarist Kevin Shields apologised to the audience: ‘Sorry it doesn’t sound like it should…’ Apparently, French law states concerts can be no louder than 106 db. MBV exceeded this limit by 9 to 19 db.

Despite the drop in volume it was still pretty damn loud. It’s the loudness that makes a My Bloody Valentine concert a physical experience. The bass guitar makes your insides churn and your pants flutter while the projected back drop images disorientate. The result is a powerful drug.The sheer noise is what gives the show its character. The band members themselves add very little to it, personality wise. Vocalists Butcher and Shields remain unfazed, singing ethereally, eyes focussed on infinity. Apart from a shy ‘hello’ and ‘thank you for coming’, they remain mute.

When the band released Loveless in 1991, I wasn’t much into shoe gazing. I still prefer more theatrical acts, but I’ve learnt to love the melodies this band creates. That’s why I took the Thalys to Paris to see them, finally back together after 16 years. There were no Dutch dates on their schedule.

During their last song, the 25-minute long ode to noise ‘You Made Me Realise’, the crew pulls the PA on the bass drum and bass guitar. The band stop and Shields motions signing papers – alluding to a clause in their contract allowing them to play at their preferred volume. He disappears backstage to demand the PA be switched back on. The rest of the band hang around on stage, slightly bemused.

Eventually, the song is continued, but bass an drum are pulled again and again. It’s shame for the band and the noise-junkies in the audience, but I was fine with it. I’d finally heard ‘Soon’, ‘I Only Said’ and the other Loveless-classics. Without damage to my ear drums.

My Bloody Valentine, Le Zenith, Paris, July 9, 2008

1. I only said
2. When you sleep
3. When you wake
4. You never should
5. Cigarette in your bed
6. Come in alone
7. Only shallow
8. Thorn
9. Nothing much to lose
10. To here knows when
11. Blown a wish
12. Slow
13. Soon
14. Feed me with your kiss
15. Sue is fine
16. You made me realise

More My Bloody Valentine pictures on Flickr.