Review: Slowdive and Japanese Breakfast at the Palace Theater – St. Paul, MN. May 2, 2017

Published on May 4, 2017.

“In a flash of time
Said she’s feeling love for everyone tonight
Smiling beautiful
She says I make it best for everyone tonight”

from ‘Star Roving’, taken from the album Slowdive (2017)

Near the very end of the Pitchfork documentary on Souvlaki, it’s noted by drummer Simon Scott that Slowdive’s final show in London in December 1993 was held at a 700 capacity venue called the ‘Garage’.   They barely attracted 300.   The cleaning crew was wiping up the floor before the final song ended.   The band went on to release Pygmalion in February of 1995 but but by then their sound had changed, and the dream was over.   It would have been a cold day in hell before someone predicted the progressive level of acclaim the band has absorbed, minus the release of any new material in 21 years.   The Shoegaze revival has been particularly kind to massive guitar sounds like those from Slowdive.

A near 10-minute version of the newly polished Slowdive diamond, ‘Slomo’ opened the show.  It was a lesson in ethereal guitar bliss.  Imagine Pink Floyd opening a show with ‘Wish You Were Here’ and you get the impact here.  Surprising to me was the innocuous inclusion of what are arguably Slowdive’s greatest two tracks, ‘When the Sun Hits’ and ‘Alison’, near the middle of the set.   Despite being larger than life tracks, they were just melted into the set, versus showing up during the encore.  ‘Alison’ alone is one of the greatest ten songs in the history of recorded pop music.  Both live tracks showcased that it’s nearly impossible for the band to immaculately recreate the absolutely perfect studio versions recorded over two decades ago.   The two live tracks lacked the sharp riffs and dramatic melodic changes of the originals.  It’s only more noticeable because I’ve heard those studio versions 300 times and know every note.   But it’s truly the difference of choosing between a hersheys bar, and fudge.  They’re both wonderful – they just have different textures.

Halstead’s guitar antics are so understated.   He’s not a statue onstage by any means but he lacks the facial expressions to match up with the absolute euphoria being generated through his amps.   The man is a shoegaze maestro, despite his effort to label it more appropriately as “progressive guitar music”.   Compared to my review of the sublime My Bloody Valentine over three years ago, the similarities between the two bands is enormous in a live setting.  Slowdive still has an additional layer of pop melody in their older tunes.   MBV was more of a religious chemistry experiment of guitar sounds, where as Slowdive’s songs had more blatant pop appeal below them.  (Yeah, I know Loveless had a lot of pop appeal at its heart)

The new Slowdive tracks from the self-titled 2017 release, ‘Star Roving’, ‘Slomo’ and ‘No Longer Making Time’ are moments of sheer beauty.  They highlight the agonizing loss of this band for 20+ years due to an over-exuberant shift of teenage attention spans towards grunge and brit-pop, and away from the truly genuine art being authored by guitar gods like Halstead and Shields.

Cherish these moments, cherish these tours.  Slowdive’s lineup is still in tact and they’re still in their mid-40’s.   No reason to think we can’t beg another half decade of greatness from them.    A fucking wonderful show.   Best of the year.

Setlist

Slomo (Live debut)
Catch the Breeze
Crazy for You
Machine Gun
Star Roving
Avalyn
Souvlaki Space Station
When the Sun Hits
Alison
Sugar for the Pill
She Calls
Golden Hair
(Syd Barrett cover)

Encore:

Slowdive
No Longer Making Time
40 Days

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