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Slowdive at the Neptune Theater, November 4th 2014 (Seattle, WA)

It can’t have been an accident that the watery and gorgeous “Deep Blue Day” by Brian Eno played before the show and at the very end. A fitting bookend for Slowdive’s own chordal drifts into ethereal daydream realms of song. This wasn’t the band of the studio recordings but it was all the better for it. The songs had a more organic feel in the live setting, especially the cuts from Pygmalion, something like the band’s  resignation note from Creation Records in 1995 and arguably its most enduringly interesting record for fans of the ambient rock it helped to pioneer.

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“Blue Skied An’ Clear” felt less like triggered whirls and more like sketches and fades of sound. What sounded like voices on parts of the recorded version of the song were revealed to be creative guitar work or was re-imagined as guitar for the live set. But the fine details were crisper live – a feature true across the set. “Souvlaki Space Station’s” guitar bounced a little more live but that left more space for the other sounds to shine through a little more.

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Among certain fans of shoegaze of the early 90s, Slowdive seemed too ethereal and abstract for their tastes but this show displayed a certain weightiness in impact that is less obvious when you’re not there in person. Especially so in rockers like “When The Sun Hits” and “Souvlaki Space Station.” But surprisingly in the more pop-oriented “Catch The Breeze” and “Alison.” What came as the biggest shock and delight of the night, other than seeing songs some of us have been listening to avidly for more than two decades, was the build of the Syd Barrett cover, “Golden Hair.” It started off with the floating, ringing chords and Rachel Goswell’s angelic vocals and slowly escalated into a roaring, scintillating, searing apotheosis of sound worthy of My Bloody Valentine.

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Throughout the set, rich visuals accompanied the music—glowing geometric shapes, patterns, lines, images all floating across several individual screens in the back. Especially effective was the sweeping blue skies streaked with clouds for, what else, “Blue Skied An’ Clear.” The hazy, bright, deep imagery very much enhanced the sense of the otherworldly that imbued the performance.   But as much as the music itself, the band seemed to really be enjoying re-visiting the material. Rachel Goswell was visibly pleased at the reaction from the audience. That Slowdive could still command an audience of this size says something about its long-term impact. Particularly with the new popularity of atmospheric pop music. We can only hope these people decide to stick with it and give us a new set of songs to match the quality of its legacy.

Setlist

Slowdive
Avalyn
Catch The Breeze
Crazy For You
Machine Gun
Souvlaki Space Station
Blue Skied An’ Clear
When The Sun Hits
Morningrise
She Calls
Dagger
Alison
Golden Hair

40 Days (Encore)

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  1. BPW

    I was at this show… the revised songs from Pygmalion were the most surprising and begged the question, Is this what a modern Slowdive would sound like? If so, I’m very much looking forward to their next release.

    Also, Neil Halstead was sick (flu?). I recall Rachel saying something along lines of “and Neil made it through the whole show without puking.” One of the stagehands put out a bucket for him before they started playing. You can see it in the top photo (trash bin). I’m guessing this is why they came out so late – maybe waiting for him to feel a bit better.

    In any case, their sound was so well-controlled that night. Even at their loudest, the squalls had identity. And after 20 years, I had to keep reminding myself that this concert was actually happening.

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