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Slowdive at Brighton Dome 16/02/2024: The Majesty of Winter's Haze

By Callum Foulds


Immerse yourself in the majesty of Slowdive's performance at Brighton Dome in Callum Foulds' review, and experience the magic of a band at the peak of their career, defying all expectations.

Arriving in Brighton, I was greeted with harsh winds, a damp hotel room, and the feeling of not particularly wanting to be in the coastal city. It is only in hindsight that I realise that the scene could have not been more aptly set. Countless artists have been inspired by the English coast: J.M.W Turner famously spent most of his career dedicated to capturing the majesty of the ocean; Barbara Hepworth formed intriguing sculptures influenced by her surroundings, working in view of the sea from her St Ives studio; Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, philosophised the activities of a family on holiday, jumping between years, all with the backdrop of a lighthouse seemingly too inaccessible due to the ocean’s temperamental behaviour. Despite hailing from Reading, one of the more landlocked cities in the UK, it felt right for Slowdive to be playing in a place famous for its retention of classic British seaside elements. The whirl of the cold ocean seemed a perfect setting for one of the most influential shoegaze bands to flex on why they are still one of the most interesting and exciting live acts around.


I wasn’t sure what to expect from a show from a band nearly forty years into their careers. Often when bands reach significant milestones, new material ceases to be produced, and set lists will consist purely of the greatest hits and crowd-pleasers. This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with this, but it can feel frustrating when you feel as if you have seen the same live show for years: this is what I hoped Slowdive would avoid. In hindsight, I realise I had little to be concerned about. For a band that has been a staple in alternative music for as long as they’ve been around, they have a relatively small output; having only five records to their name, the band retreated from releasing music as Slowdive for just over twenty years, before returning in 2017 with arguably their strongest body of work to date. They have been touring since their reappearance, and have arguably never been stronger.


When the house lights fell (only somewhat so - the majority of lights stayed on during the first two songs, causing uproar whenever they flickered between states), the first notes of, 'shanty' welcomed the legendary shoegazers on stage. Despite their legendary status as one of Britain's most influential guitar bands, all five members lacked the ego or pretense that might be expected of a band of such a caliber; launching straight into a glimmering version of their recent record’s opening track, and straight into the racing, 'Star Roving' from the eponymous 2017 album. However, 'Catch the Breeze' is when things got really magical. They gave a gorgeous rendition of the debut album cut, putting on a staggering light show of blinding proportions, leaving Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead seemingly frozen in silhouette form whilst producing extraterrestrial-like walls of sound (I captured an image of this moment on a disposable camera, hoping that the lights did not burn through the entire film).


The rest of the set contained songs from every Slowdive album, including, 'Crazy for You' from the often-forgotten post-rock masterpiece, Pygmalion. The pop romanticism of last year's, 'Kisses' was a personal highlight, as was, '40 Days' from the never forgotten and much-loved, Souvlaki. After returning to the stage for a three-song encore, the band finished the night with a cover of Syd Barrett’s 1970 psychedelic-folk cut, 'Golden Hair'. Goswell crooned the James Joyce-inspired track, then left the stage, her bandmates soaring into yet another wall of sound, that is really the only way to finish a Slowdive gig.


I feel lucky to have witnessed a veteran band that continues to peak, both on stage and in the studio. It would be expected for a band of such caliber in possession of such revered older records to simply tour familiar material until they no longer felt like it, pleasing crowds that grew up with them, leaning merely into nostalgia. Slowdive is different. I do not believe that this will be the last time I will witness this band play live, and from seeing the huge variation in age of the audience at Brighton Dome, I imagine most will feel similarly. Slowdive are at an extremely exciting point in their career; they have a back catalogue that more than stands the tests of time, whilst having the devotion and love of their new material so that they might explore new territories, and just have fun. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to see them, I would highly recommend it; they are a singular body in music today, constantly redefining their legacy, bending themselves to no-one.


 

About the Writer:

Callum Foulds is a poet and recording artist based in Nottingham, England. They enjoy good food, scary movies and playing with their cat. They can often be found reading on the couch, or agonising over whatever creative venture they are currently embarking on. @cf_oulds

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