It feels as fun, and as relevant playing together now as it did when we first started” said Slowdive’s Neil Halstead about their much-anticipated single ‘Star Roving’ upon its release in January. This was the band’s first new material in 22 years. Slowdive, a shoegaze band from Reading known for their dream-like sound and often poignantly sad lyrics, were dropped by their record label in 1995 after refusing to make a pop album. With the music scene dominated by Britpop, Slowdive found themselves a source of ridicule in the press, and quietly faded into obscurity.
But now, after experiencing a huge surge in popularity during their lengthy hiatus, they are back. With a new, self-titled record out earlier this year, they’ve gone on tour to crowds far bigger than they ever saw in the nineties. Opening their concert at Camden’s famed Roundhouse with ‘Slomo’, the first song of the new album, it was immediately apparent that this was no half-baked reunion tour. This was not to be a night of rehashing old favourites for the super-fans; this was fresh, new, and showed their huge progression as a band.
“The music felt reinvigorated – fans were treated to a concert they never imagined they’d see”
Other new songs such as ‘Sugar for the Pill’ and ‘No Longer Making Time’ were equally successful, flaunting their signature overwhelming-yet-ambient sounds arranged in refreshingly new ways. The kaleidoscopic light show behind the band was incredible, so absorbing that you often felt like the only one in the room.
Old tracks retained their magic. The whole crowd, who had been generally still and quiet up to this point in classic shoegaze fashion (a genre that Slowdive helped pioneer), came alive in the chorus of ‘When the Sun Hits’. Everyone sang in unison and the emotion in the room was palpable. This was truer still of acoustic dirge ‘Dagger’, which left many visibly moved to tears. But perhaps most impressive was ‘Golden Hair’, a Syd Barrett cover whose lyrics are based on a poem by James Joyce. The music was stripped bare as Rachel Goswell’s ethereal voice held the entire crowd, before transforming into the epic frenzied instrumental for which Slowdive are known best.
“Acoustic dirge ‘Dagger’ left many visibly moved to tears”
In short, Slowdive have done exactly what they hoped to do. The music felt reinvigorated, and many fans were treated to a concert they never imagined they’d see. They have achieved what so many artists fail to do upon reunion – they weren’t just as good as they were before, they were even better.