Following the release of their fifth studio album ‘Everything Is Alive’, English shoegaze legends Slowdive would conclude their Autumn tour with a sold-out show in the National Stadium.
What is notable about Slowdive in comparison of many of their contemporaries who have reunited is that their music has caught the imagination of a whole new generation of fans. This can be seen in the wide demographics in attendance on this cold Monday night in Dublin – e-girls, hipster boys and indie mams and dads are all present and accounted for.
Fitting then that Dublin post-punks Gurriers would start proceedings. The exuberant, youthful quartet brought their angular riffage, frenetic rhythms and acerbic with to the dance, with frontman Dan Hoff’s usual snarling stage persona seeming somewhat reluctant and bashful. It seems he was just happy to be there, introducing songs by saying things like “if you like it, great, if you don’t, that’s cool, too”, promoting the band’s merch stand in much the same way and capping the evening off by gushing over the main attraction “we can’t wait to watch them, they’re fucking great”.
At first glance, the band seemed like an odd choice for an opening act but in their more melodic moments, it makes perfect sense. There is a certain dreamy spaciousness to the chord voicings they employ, at times reminiscent of latter-day Deftones work. Regardless, any bashfulness on Hoff’s part was unnecessary – the band got over huge with the Dublin faithful, the standing section full to capacity for their set.
Slowdive would aim to lull the crowd into a somewhat false sense of serenity with their entrance, walking on stage to Brian Eno’s Deep Blue Day. This would segue nicely into Shanty, the opening track from ‘Everything Is Alive’. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Goswell was every bit the centre of attention, cutting a witch-like figure in a Stevie Nicks-inspired ensemble and Cruella DeVille inspired dye-job, dancing the whole night through. The rest of the band were all indie boy skinny jeans, trucker caps and check shirts. It made for an interesting juxtaposition against the psychedelic light show and backdrop which featured prominent kaleidoscopic and geometric imagery.
The band struck a fine balance between old and new material. While Shanty gave way to Star Roving from the band’s 2017 self-titled album, we would not hear any more new material until the set’s midway point, when they wheeled out Kisses, the lead single from “Everything…”. In between, we were treated to classics from ‘Just For A Day’, ‘Souvlaki’ and ‘Pygmalion’, most notably debut single Catch The Breeze and the dub-inspired Souvlaki Space Station. With that said, based on audience reaction alone, it’s fair to say that Sugar For The Pill from the 2017 self-titled album has been accepted as a classic Slowdive song.
Musically, the band’s ability to fill every crevice of space with sound is nothing short of astonishing. You’d wonder how only Goswell and lead-songwriter Neil Halstead’s voices are the only instruments being drowned out, and even this is intentional. Equally remarkable is the dynamic between these distinctive voices – Goswell’s syrupy sweet voice a perfect foil for Halstead, who’s voice has matured into a fine baritone croon when compared with the reedy, whispery quality affected on those early releases. He does, however, wheel out a lovely falsetto during Slomo.
The band’s latter moments were dominated by material from the undisputed classic ‘Souvlaki’ – Alison and When The Sun Hits provoke visceral reactions from the crowd, while a cover of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair (recorded by the band for 1991 debut ‘Just For A Day’, but unreleased until its reissue in 2007) would give way to that classic game of peek-a-boo some bands like to play.
Resurfacing for a lighter and phone screen lit rendition of Dagger, Halstead would show some gratitude. “That was beautiful. Thank you.” They’re not the most charismatic or talkative band in the world, but they’re just as happy to be there as anyone else. Besides, the music speaks for itself. The band would play one more new one in The Slab before closing with 40 Days.
All in all, it was a beautiful show. For a band that were all but ignored in the shadow of their Anglo-Irish counterparts (you know who I mean), and that of the rise of Britpop, it’s refreshing to see them so appreciated by audiences middle-aged and young. With the release of two albums since reuniting in 2014, and talk of another tour next year, it seems that Slowdive could be around for another while yet.