Slowdive at Cat’s Cradle

Rachel Goswell of Slowdive

As everybody around here knows, I’ve been a huge fan of Slowdive for 25 years. I really liked their 1991 debut album Just for a Day, but their 1993 sophomore album Souvlaki totally blew me away. That was way before the days of Amazon and before the days of being able to order things directly at the click of a button. I got very lucky, and I was able to pick up an import copy of the CD, which came out several months before the US release. It also featured a bonus disc of the Blue Day EP. As it turns out, there were only 1000 of those made, but I didn’t know that at the time. I assumed that they, like every other band of their ilk, would tour the US and hit the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill and/or the old 1313 Club in Charlotte. They didn’t. In the summer of 93, they played Atlanta and DC, but I held out, assuming that they would be around some other time. The next summer, they didn’t come any closer than DC during a very short North American tour which ended with a now famous show in Toronto. Nobody knew it at the time, but that Toronto show would be their last for 20 years.

The band’s third album Pygmalion came out in 1995, and fans were somewhat confused. It wasn’t shoegaze. It wasn’t dream pop. It was a spacey, experimental piece that sounded very little like the Slowdive that I loved. That record has a lot of negative space and a lot of really really slow-burning stuff. I never really cottoned to that record, but I thought that it might just be a weird bump in their road. Again, nobody knew it at the time, but they were pretty much done at that point. They didn’t tour with that record, and it was soon announced that the band had been dropped by Creation Records. Britpop was king, and while some bands would adapt with the changing landscape, they didn’t. It would also later come out that Rachel had suffered some significant hearing loss and couldn’t really play loud music anymore.

The folky Mojave 3 rose from the ashes of Slowdive, and that band featured Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead, and Ian McCutcheon all out of Slowdive. I liked that band a lot, and I did get to see them twice, but I always lamented the fact that I never saw Slowdive.

A couple of years ago, the band announced that they were reforming for some festival shows. And then the huge news came out that they would put out a new album and go on a proper tour. When the first batch of US dates was announced, the closest gig was in DC. Later, to my complete delight, they announced a Cat’s Cradle show, which would be their first time playing in North Carolina as Slowdive.

The new eponymous album came out last Friday, and I finally got to see them last night. It was everything I was hoping for and then some.

Neil Halstead of Slowdive

They played a good mix of new songs and stuff from the other three albums. To be honest, I was expecting a set heavy with new songs and Souvlaki stuff. As it turns out, they only played three of the new songs. I was really anticipating my favorite songs from Souvlaki, though: “Alison”, “When the Sun Hits”, “Souvlaki Space Station”. I was pleased with all of those, although I thought “When the Sun Hits” sounded a bit muddy. They also played “40 Days” as the last song of the encore. After there were some difficulties with the PA system, they decided to play on, and pretty much did it through their monitors.

They also played a Slowdive show mainstay in their cover of the Syd Barrett song “Golden Hair” as the last song of the main set. I’ve seen videos of them performing that song, and I had high expectations. They were certainly met last night.

Nick Chaplin of Slowdive

All of that was great, but the highlight of the night was something that came as a complete surprise to me. Early in the set, they launched into very gently nudged off into “Crazy for You”, which I always thought was a perfect badge for what I didn’t love about Pygmalion. On the album, it’s very spacey, very sparse, very minimal. Almost too much. It’s got loads of delay and a cool piano bit, but it doesn’t do a ton for me. When performed live, however, it’s a completely different animal. The drums were heavy and fierce. The guitars were fiery and vibrant. It was in complete contrast to the album version, and I absolutely loved it. Later, they would do a similar thing with “Blue Skied an’ Clear”, giving it lots of life that I never knew it had.

There were, admittedly, a few hiccups during the show, and there was a problem with the PA going in and out towards the end of the show, but I thought it was a brilliant night.

I also must admit that I did not enjoy the opening set by The Casket Girls. Their 2014 album True Love Kills the Fairy Tale was my favourite album of that year. Number one. I’ve really liked all of their albums, but I had heard many times that they aren’t as good live as they are on record. That turned out to be true. There was a lot of disharmony in their voices and some of their choreography was goofy. They also played about two songs too many.

For other parts of this US tour, Slowdive had Japanese Breakfast as their special guest, and I would have loved to have seen them. But the reality is that we were all there for one reason and one reason only: Slowdive.

I loved the show, and I’m really glad that I finally got to check them off my list.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

2 responses to “Slowdive at Cat’s Cradle

  • jprobichaud

    Nice. I got to see them with Japanese Breakfast in Montreal last Saturday. It was a beautiful show and I’ve gotta say, I’m loving the new album. Oh… and I agree 100% with you on Pygmalion. It was like they went all Eno…

  • lowkev

    Congrats! They’re really amazing to watch.
    I was lucky enough to see them at Brooklyn Steel Tuesday. It was nothing short of breathtaking!
    We also had some technical problems. When they got on stage, the sound system pretty much had to reset, leading to the most awkward two minutes of “Slomo” ever. Once that was fixed, they had a solid set! And dear God, is “Golden Hair” an experience. They really make the songs dynamic and breathtaking.
    I was quite excited to see Japanese Breakfast as well, and I enjoyed their set. I love their work, and even got to briefly talk to the frontwoman Michelle afterwards (and she’s really cool to talk to).

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