Tonight’s show at the Roundhouse brought to an end the European leg of Slowdive‘s year-long tour that has also seen them play sold-out shows in South America, Japan, the US and Canada (with dates in Australia and New Zealand also coming soon). Such geographical breadth and packed venues clearly shows that just as much (if not more) love exists for Slowdive in 2017 than did back in the 1990s. They may have joined the likes of fellow shoegaze luminaries Ride and Lush in reforming to give fans a chance to relive music from a younger age but, importantly, the quality of their eponymous fourth album released earlier in the year ensures this isn’t just an exercise in pure nostalgia.
First up tonight are Minnesota’s finest, Low (Slowdive taking advantage of them already being in London for their own headline show the following evening). They are certainly a crowd-pleasing opening act and play a succinct set that predominantly calls upon tracks from their last two albums. They reach further back for setlist ever-presents Monkey and Pissing and also showcase two very promising tracks from their next album (due for release Spring 2018). Frontman Alan Sparhawk refers to Slowdive as “kindred spirits”, and the similarities in aesthetic and approach and are clear to see. Also, it’s simply just not possible to have too many reminders of how spine-tingling Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s vocals sound.
Slowdive begin with Slomo, an artful and orbiting opener and a quick reminder of how sculpted and powerful their new tracks sound. They go back to the start of their career next for Slowdive which gives rise to thoughts that use of the term ‘blissed-out’ should only be permitted to describe the guitars on this track and strictly no other. Heads sway, faces turn skybound as the capacity Roundhouse crowd savour the moment. Catch The Breeze follows with the soft outlines and transitioning between detachment and engagement still present but, like the new album, it sounds utterly bolstered and reinvigorated. The sudden uplift in volume and dynamics at the end suggests that this could be Slowdive’s ‘noise moment’, in a similar, if maybe less iconic, way that My Bloody Valentine have You Made Me Realise or Ride have Drive Blind. Next, the super-blasted abstraction of Crazy For You shows how tracks can be transformed into something far more impactful live.
Star Roving surfs by on a way of beatific guitars as euphoric, star-bound melodies engulf the venue. Another highlight of the new album, the thrillingly elusive Don’t Know Why follows soon after, propelled initially by Simon Scott’s rapid drumming and the beautifully synergic vocal interplay between Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead. The latter’s voice especially remains a wonderfully warm and comforting sound (a view reinforced by the openness and glittering majesty of Sugar For The Pill).
Earlier favourites soon return however – Alison is pristine yet somehow also amorphous, the nebulous Souvlaki Space Station remains the closest they have got to matching the otherworldliness of the Cocteau Twins and When The Sun Hits still sounds melancholy and vulnerable but equally defiant. All albums are operating from a level playing field tonight however – each track regardless of age benefits from the same powerful, foregrounded sound.
Their cover of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair brings the main set to an end before the spiralling, stratospheric guitars of 40 Days closes the encore. Slowdive are playing with renewed power and drive, and occasions like tonight seem to suggest that it’s not impossible that this reunion could last longer than initially intended. If it does, on this evidence, it will make many people happy.