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Slowdive + Drab Majesty - House of Blues (Boston) - Sep 25, 2023

30 September 2023

I think it was one of the Mission of Burma guys, either Roger Miller or Clint Conley who said selling tickets on the first reunion tour is the easy part. It’s selling tickets on subsequent tours that’s the real challenge. Pent-up demand usually means large venues for the first trip back, and then depending on what the band is doing (ie, maintaining status as a legacy act, or being an active band and recording and releasing new material) the crowds can start to thin out (in both scenarios, really).

Slowdive is one of those rare instances where their ascendency is still peaking. The 2014 show packed Royale, and then the next tour was at the slightly smaller Paradise, despite an excellent record released in the meantime. After a brief dalliance in the Minor Victories side project with members of Mogwai and Editors (sadly it looks like that canceled US tour will never happen), Rachel Goswell teamed up with Neil Halstead and the rest of the band (pretty much the original lineup from back in the early 90s which is always a good sign) to create yet another gauzy, ethereal record. And in the process, they sold out the 2.4K capacity House of Blues on a Monday, pretty impressive!

I am still digesting the new one, and while it doesn’t scale to the lofty heights as the previous one it’s still a strong record. The band certainly thinks so, and kicked things off with the first two songs off it. I’d have preferred them to have stretched that to three, as “alife” (no capital letters in these songs titles, ee cummings-style) is one of strongest on everything is alive.

The key element of this band is the mood they create, at once soothing, mysterious, brooding but resolutely cheerful in patches too. The guitars of Halsted and Christian Savill are the main ingredients, along with Goswell’s angelic voice and bassist Nick Chaplin’s sturdy unpinning, posture cribbed from the Simon Gallup school of rock. Highlights included Halstead’s guitar tone in “Crazy For You” which sounded like an avalanche of violins and Simon Scott’s drums pushing the song with white-knuckled urgency and the hearty audience response to the plangent and gorgeous “Sugar For The Pill,” phones up to capture snippets to share with friends later.

The noticeably sizeable chunk of the audience that was born after Slowdive’s first record came out was apparently the doing of “When The Sun Hits” having its moment in the, er, sun (groan) via TikTok, along with “Alison” and the streaming numbers via Spotify are significantly higher. Well, musicians don’t care how people come to learn of them and those two songs are among the very best of the band, so no gatekeeping or judgment on how people are becoming fans of the band.

Their unique treatment of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” turned the lo-fi bedroom musings of the mad captain into a starburst pattern of sonic trembling. The languid string bending of “40 Days” sent us out with the feeling that bands do get a second chance, and it’s great to see Slowdive enjoying this surge.

Drab Majesty has some roots in the metal scene when Andrew Clinco stepped out from behind the drums for Marriages to create an alter ego and ’80s new wave/‘10s dark wave project as an independent entity. Soon Alex Nicolaou was recruited for additional vocals and keyboards and they’ve crafted three records of dark. moody and ambiguous music. The stark presentation of platinum blond wigs and oversized sunglasses, frozen and stoic expressions as the beats and melodies swirl about, the band could have benefited a bit from more dynamic stage lighting instead of being bathed in reddish-purple all evening.