My Bloody Valentine live, 2013.

Less than 12 hours prior to My Bloody Valentine’s Sunday night performance at Uniqlo AX the band unexpectedly released (through their website) their first full-length album in twenty-two years, entitled m b v. Due to the masses of online fans bloodying their fingers by repeatedly hitting their F5 keys as they waited for the follow-up to 1991′s classic Loveless, the site crashed within moments of the album going live and, frustratingly, didn’t return for some time. The spectre of this cyber ghost unfortunately tracked the band into the real world and through the course of their first show on the Korean peninsula seemed to possess a wide range of their equipment and instruments.

These technical issues were apparent from opener ‘New You’, a track taken from their latest release in which Bilinda Butcher’s vocals sounded as if they were being performed via Skype from the roadside of some busy highway with a weak internet connection. Her voice has always been used more like an instrument on My Bloody Valentine records and part of its charm is usually in the way in which it makes up just one part of the rich sonic texture that the band can weave. However, on this occasion it felt as though the audience were straining to hear anything at all. This problem remained unfixed for most of the show and it took further difficulties with Kevin Shields’ guitar before the four-piece stopped and attempted to resolve the issues.

Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine.

This might have all been surmountable had there been some more interaction with the crowd but the deadly silence after the once and twice aborted tracks ‘Only Shallow’ and ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ felt teeth-grindingly awkward. Shields had the look of a man who had just accidentally killed someone but rather than frantically trying to resuscitate the casualty by desperately performing some kind of CPR he was just nonchalantly pushing his victim’s spilt guts back into their stomach. Though new tracks showed some promise, the nineties-esque visual projections and the band’s seeming lack of assuredness meant this was the wrong forum to properly assess their recent work. There were still some hints of the Dublin-based shoegazers’ brilliant full capabilities on tracks like ‘I Only Said’ and ‘To Here Knows When’ but these moments were too few and far between to win over what had been, considering the 110,000 won price tag, a very supportive crowd.

My Bloody Valentine seem unsure of what kind of tour they want this to be and, perhaps, what kind of band they now wish to be. If they are simply to be a reformed rock group touring so their fans can have the pleasure of seeing them live then they need to put on a better show, but if they want to still be seen as making relevant contemporary music (as the release of an album of new material would suggest) then persuading modern audiences may take more conviction. While their previous album has become recognised as one of the defining records of its era, My Bloody Valentine’s voice seems to have become a lot quieter in the intervening time, and not just because of their faulty microphones.

Did you go to My Bloody Valentine on Sunday night at Uniqlo AX ? What did you think?

Words: Mike Beech. Take a look at his photography blog here or see some of his recent music reviews here.

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