Slowdive @ The Forum, Melbourne, Thursday February 8, 2018.
The UK Shoegaze outfit impress – albeit quietly – on a warm evening in Melbourne.
It was the bluff and hedonism of Britpop that scissored the foppish fringe of Shoegaze, relegating the movement to the realm of essential comedown soundtracks.
Watching Slowdive amble on stage this evening, I doubt any member of the band would’ve even dared to contemplate that 23 years after Alan McGee slammed the door shut at Creation, they would be playing to a packed house in Melbourne.
After Slowdive ceased to exist, the players remained engaged through a myriad of different bands and projects, before pulling back together again in early 2014. A critically acclaimed new album followed last year – the band’s fourth – and the resurrection was complete.
For my money, there is no better venue in Melbourne than the Forum – a stage fit for a shimmering wall of guitar effects, and that’s what Slowdive produced, albeit on the quiet side. After the opener, Slomo, a girl in the front ranks cried out, “Turn it up,” but the sound engineer was either asleep or wearing industrial-grade ear protection, seemingly oblivious to the suppressed volume.
This band was tight, swaying through material pulled from all four albums, and a memorable version of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair that knocked the crowd sideways. Guitarist and primary songwriter Neil Halstead conjured a spell of fuzz and delay like an auditory necromancer, exquisitely complemented by Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocal melodies. Projected on the rear stage wall, a kaleidoscope of imagery provided the visual support to the sonic odyssey.
Stage banter was reserved for a half-hearted “This is Trev” as the guitar tech sauntered on stage for another axe interchange, the occasional ‘thank you’, and “Goodnight, Melbourne.” But you don’t go to a Slowdive gig for the parlance. The musicianship here was faultless, and the varied setlist would appease all crowd requirements – but I longed to be engulfed by a sonorous wave of sound that just didn’t quite materialise.
After 90 minutes (including a three-track encore), the band disappeared, and I strolled out into the warm late summer evening pondering whether this was the quietest gig that I have ever attended.