In the canon of long-gestating band reunions, breakups and returns from hiatuses, typically two paths generally open up: The return on the basis of performing solely past material that’s garnered anywhere from a cult to highly-visibly celebrated following in the time since the group or artist was active, or a band returning to not only satiate their audience’s desire to hear those old songs, but to also get back in the swing of things and start making new music again. Slowdive, the UK dreampop and shoegaze outfit fronted by Neil Halsted and Rachel Goswell, have decidedly taken the second path. Their self-titled release from this year, the band’s first release since 1995’s Pygmalion, has garnered rave reviews from all corners of the music world. To capitalize on this buzz, Slowdive took to the Wiltern stage for the first of two Los Angeles area shows (the other being a performance at the intimate, desert-set outer-LA venue of Pappy & Harriet’s in nearby Pioneertown).
Local luminaries Cherry Glazerr got the festivities off to a rollicking start, doing their best to win over a crowd that might not necessarily have a lot in common with the Burger Records scene that the LA rock quartet emerged from. No matter, as Clem Creevy and company tore up the stage and easily impressed a wide swath of those in attendance with their sickly sweet, distorted tunes. I could spy some of the most plugged-in, “with it” scenesters as well as plenty of the dudes who had come specifically to hear a deep cut from Souvlaki tapping their feet and getting into it. But as the lights went out on the increasingly haze-filled Wiltern stage, the gathered crowd erupted in anticipatory cheers as Slowdive took the stage.
Casting a dizzying array of guitars, keyboards and a driving rhythm-section, it became clear that while Slowdive might not be reinventing the wheel when it comes to shoegaze and dream pop as live rock entertainment, they simply do it better than almost any band on the planet. With Halstead and Goswell trading ever-catchy vocals over classics like “Catch The Breeze,” “When The Sun Hits” and their most well-known tune, “Allison,” the band was easily able to captivate those in attendance and have them eating out of the palm of the band’s hands.
As the set progressed, it became clear that the material off this year’s Slowdive was just as well received by the fans in attendance as the classic Slowdive material, a triumph for a group whose legacy could have easily ensnared them or made them regret putting out new material. Additionally, the visual light performance component of the show impressed, as the flickering, moving spotlights complemented the band’s psychedelic-adjacent form of moody, dreamy rock music. But the best takeaway from Slowdive’s performance at the Wiltern is that if you’re hoping to see them in the future and be washed over with reverb and all sorts of guitar tones across the spectrum of possible sound? Then consider this an invitation to have those expectations met. For in this current iteration of the band, Slowdive are as powerful, tight-knit and aurally pleasing as one could hope for.
It was one hell of a way to sendoff Rocktober, that’s for sure.
Words and photos by Lee Bedrouni