After a 21-year wait to finally catch My Bloody Valentine in concert again, Twin Cities fans were given a welcome gift Friday night at Roy Wilkins Auditorium to help reacquaint them with the influential Irish band: earplugs.
Wilkins ushers handed out hearing-saving foam buds to everyone who entered the St. Paul auditorium, a clear warning it would get loud.
MBV is well-known to be one of the most ear-damaging bands around — when it’s around. Guitarist/bandleader Kevin Shields put his distortion-riddled whir-rock quartet on hold for two decades for reasons not fully explained, but he finally resurfaced with a new album this year, “m b v.”
Still a bit too much on the mysterious side — preshow promotional interviews were declined, and photographers weren’t allowed in — Shields only drew about 1,800 attendees Friday. The ones who were there, though, will talk about this one enough for it to become legendary.
At least the ending will stick with fans for a long time as a physical memory. They were left with wobbly knees and gnashed teeth as the band left the stage with its extra-bombastic closer “You Made Me Realise,” wherein it maintained a single, reverberating note for five minutes straight at a 120-plus decibel level (per the sound engineer).
Part of the physical effect of the concert came from the strobe lights and constantly spinning video backdrop. But dear God, the noise level truly made a deep impact — even turned disorienting. It was as if the band pointed a fire hose spewing hard-blasting guitar noise at the crowd for 90 minutes and then suddenly left fans standing there shivering.
MBV is also famous for making “shoegazer” a rock ’n’ roll term. Obviously, two decades of aging and nonperforming did nothing to liven up its stage act. Shields smiled and waved a couple of times, and not very heartily. That was about it.
The most noticeable movement on stage came from Shields’ right hand, which madly worked the tremolo bar on his Fender Jaguar guitars for the bent-note effects in such songs as the swirling opus “Soon” and the set’s crunchiest tune, “Wonder 2,” one of three played off the new album.
Best among the newbies was the bright, billowy pop song “New You” near the start of the show, one of many to showcase guitarist/co-vocalist Bilinda Butcher’s ethereal voice.
The rest of the concert was made up of old — as in drinking-age old — songs, including six from 1991’s “Loveless,” the album that made MBV as influential to ’90s alt-rock bands as to ’00s indie-rocker. A one-two punch of the “Loveless” tracks “Come in Alone” and “Only Shallow” mid-set also left fans reeling. This is one rock show where the hangover will have little to do with alcohol consumption.