Cloth have been around a few years now, playing increasingly better slots at festivals and building an audience. Their smooth, goth-tinged electronic pop has a clear antecedent in The xx and their live show runs into the same problem they had in the early days: no matter how good your songs are, chattering morons will ruin them if you have a “quiet” sound. The trick is to figure out how to beef up your style without sacrificing what makes it special in the first place. The xx achieved this be veering towards the club with I See You, and Cloth have made some tentative steps in this direction by elevating the bass (both drum and guitar). There’s an endearing wide-eyed love of the music in the group, and each high guitar note and choice cymbal hit seem to enliven them as much the audience. It might feel like slow progress, but they’re becoming a wonderfully rounded band destined for big things.
Slowdive, however, have no concerns in the volume department, as they consistently construct, explode and rebuild walls of sound throughout their 90 minutes on stage. shanty, the opener from their recent everything is alive serves as opener tonight, and it’s probably one of the more reserved moments, serving to satiate the baying masses packed into the awkwardly shaped QMU. Star Roving and Catch the Breeze follow, both obliterating any sense of time between 2017 and 1991 and placing Slowdive in the vampiric lore of bands that are curiously ageless, both on record and on stage.
There are psychedelic, geometric visuals all night, bathing not just the stage but a whole half of the room in optical illusions to complement the aural ones. Sugar for the Pill, with its contemporary classic riff elicits cheers that almost rival When the Sun Hits. This, along with the broad age range, demonstrate that Slowdive are just as relevant and powerful as they were 30 years ago.
Rachel Goswell is in typically bewitching form, her vocals glimmering delicately atop the arrangements, or joining with Neil Halstead’s gruff coos to achieve maximum impact. Halstead commands the set almost indifferently through his pedals and guitar to begin with, but takes a more active role with Slomo and Alison. Even with the occasional mis-cue or bum note (it the first night of the band’s UK leg), the band still move as one and the overall effect remains strong as ever.
Goswell begins the main set closer, a cover of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair, with some beautiful, oblique summonings worthy of Elizabeth Fraser. However, she then leaves the stage to allow the band to develop into full psychedelic mode; where Barrett only allowed a scant couple of minutes, Slowdive stretch and manipulate into an almost 10 minute almighty racket. Perhaps because of this there’s only time for the slab and 40 Days in the encore (and not the usual Dagger), but they’re equally wonderful closers.
Interestingly, phase two of Slowdive’s career has now been comfortably longer than than their first, but on the strength of tonight it’s as though no time passed at all. They’ve grown past the reductive shoegaze signifiers to simply become one of the greatest bands around, genre be damned.