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Review: Slowdive Live in Sydney, Jan 31, 2018

Slowdive are an incredibly rare band. For starters, 2017’s self-titled album came more than two decades after their last. And it was not only good, it was possibly their best ever work. They’ve also consequently enjoyed a serious revival in terms of fandom and popularity and critical attention, which saw them land on many annual best-of lists alongside festival lineups. When they started performing live again, it was immediately apparent that their resurgence wasn’t limited to the record.

The band’s return to Australia—for Laneway festival and a series of headline sideshows—marked their first visit to our shores in about 25 years. They opted for small venues including Sydney’s Metro Theatre, a venue that uniquely lends itself so a really wide range of genres and types of energy.

The great thing about the crowd was that you could smell the excitement from the Slowdive lifers, those who’ve been waiting decades to catch the shoegaze heroes in the flesh. Intermingled were the newer converts, those who were either introduced to Slowdive via their new album, or somehow discovered them over the last few years. The point is, there was no snobbishness to be seen, just a really widespread group of people here to see a wonderful band for the first time in many audience member’s lives. And yes, they delivered. The show was a mesmerising triumph.

Accompanied by a dizzying array of psychedelic visuals, floating motifs and trippy patterns, Slowdive’s long-awaited live return proved just how transformative their music is. Their music carries this unique blend of energetic punk minimalism and the dreamy, shoegaze ambience, coming to life in its own way on stage, with a strength that can’t be copied on record. Meditative waves of jangly guitars, airy vocals and swaying percussion, the kind that hypnotises you well before you realise it.

For almost two hours, the UK band delivered a set that didn’t just please the crowd—it was clearly a pleasure to perform. Though there was almost no crowd interaction, lead singer Rachel Goswell noted how long it had been since their last visit. Most of Slowdive was performed for the crowd, with plenty of time still left over to share long, long-awaited live renditions from their early ’90s days, like Souvlaki Space Station and of course 40 Days, along with a tribute to Syd Barrett, covering the late artist’s 1970 track Golden Hair. 

Not many bands can pull off this kind of resurgence. Then again, there aren’t many bands quite like Slowdive. Whether or not they’ll ever return again is anyone’s guess. But for those who were finally able to tick this performance off their bucket list, and those who surpassed the decades of waiting, thanks to a late discovery, one thing is certain: this show won’t be easy to forget.

Image: Supplied