When Slowdive played Philadelphia for the first time some 21 years ago, there weren’t many artists that sounded like them. Well, wait – let me clarify – it was the thick of the shoegaze / dream-pop movement in the UK psychedelic rock scene, after all, so of course you had My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Ride, Curve, Lush, and others with band names out of the health and beauty aisle and similar sonic aesthetics. Nevertheless, it was a relatively small and contained scene that quickly fizzled with the onset of modern rock.
I was not one of the 800 or so who saw Slowdive when they headlined the TLA on August 15, 1993; at that point, I pretty much had Nine Inch Nails’ Broken on repeat in my Walkman alongside (ugh) the Spin Doctors and the Singles soundtrack. (I was not the most cultured high school freshman.) A glance around Union Transfer two Fridays showed me that the majority of the crowd was probably in the same boat as myself, albeit with possibly less questionable youthful music leanings. We weren’t old enough – or born enough – to see Slowdive the first time around, so we’ve been content for our lives with our copies of Souvlaki on iTunes shuffle, not to mention the legions of post-shoegaze and revival-shoegaze and (in the case of Philly’s Nothing) hardcore-shoegaze outfits that have proliferated over the years, some with more success than others.
When Slowdive took the Union Transfer stage on Friday, October 24th – some 21 years, two months and 9 days after their only other Philadelphia show – it felt simultaneously thrilling and anticlimactic. Aside from the fact that the people performing were, in fact, Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead, Nick Chaplin, Christian Savill and Simon Scott, there wasn’t immediately anything differentiating them from those legions of followers.The experience at first felt the same as seeing, say, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, or Chromatics, Mahogany, or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – a group of players, clad in stylish (and largely black) attire, backed by arty projections, noddingly using their intricate rigs to send expansive textures and vibes to the PA. “Avalyn” struck an engrossing, pulsating mood two songs into the set, kind of the same mood as “Kill for Love” created at Making Time a couple years back. But as the set wore on, this changed.
“Machine Gun” was, I’ll say it, something close to a spiritual experience, and its dovetail into “Souvlaki Space Station” couldn’t have been more perfect. “When The Sun Hits” came across rousing and aggressive, whereas “Alison” was a blissed-out serving of jangle-pop. The band wasn’t much for conversation, but that’s fine since the crowd was somewhat aloof, probably silently pondering the same question as I: if it wasn’t Slowdive – the Slowdive – soundscaping up there on the stage, what would we really think of the show? It was tough to say, but when their cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” went long and held tight at the close of the main set, it felt for a moment like the legend was indeed alive.
Below, listen to audio of the entire concert on YouTube, check out a photo gallery, puruse the setlist and see a couple fan videos shot from the crowd.
Catch the Breeze
Crazy for You
Souvlaki Space Station
Blue Skied an’ Clear
When the Sun Hits
Golden Hair (Syd Barrett cover)
Low, Slowdive, Union Transfer