CMJ 2014: S(Low)dive at Terminal 5
Slowdive at CMJ 2014 by Adela Loconte for Bowery Presents
New York City -- Saturday’s Slowdive show felt a lot like the unofficial headlining set of CMJ. Not only did it take place in the colossal venue (for CMJ) Terminal 5, it featured a much beloved and recently reunited 90s act that’s probably more popular now than ever before. Sounds like a festival headliner to me. Joining Slowdive for their triumphant return to New York were fellow 90s cult heroes Low.
Low have been recording albums for twenty years now, which is certainly an impressive feat. What’s even more impressive, however, is that their tenth studio effort, 2013’s The Invisible Way, is one of the band’s best. The Invisible Way showcases a band with a great savvy for songwriting and excellent musical chemistry - both vocally and instrumentally.
All of that was on display during Low’s opening set. The trio kept a low-key demeanor throughout, letting their music do most of the talking. For example, when they were singing together on “Plastic Cup,” drummer Mimi Parker held her note just a second longer than frontman Alan Sparhawk, creating a gorgeous effect on an already-haunting song. Likewise, the instrumental breakdown in the middle of “On My Own” turned the folky song into a big, cathartic rocker.
My main thought while watching Low’s set - other than how flat out great the songs were - was how much better the show would’ve been at a smaller venue. While they certainly weren’t overwhelmed by the size of T5 - they’re too good for that - Low’s songs just have such emotion and intimacy that they would’ve been much better suited for a place like Bowery Ballroom (where we saw The Kills earlier this CMJ).
Low closed their set with a new song, entitled “Landslide,” which likely means an eleventh album is on the way. Hopefully that album is accompanied by a tour of less monstrous venues.
I was similarly concerned with how Slowdive would sound in Terminal 5. The band’s dreamy vocals and guitars feel like the exact kind of music the venue’s swallowing caverns tend to feed on. Luckily, despite some vocal shakiness during the first song or two, Slowdive conquered the caverns and delivered a very strong set.
Though they’re primarily known for the guitars and vocals of Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead, the real star of the show was Slowdive’s excellent rhythm section. Bassist Nick Chaplin and drummer Simon Scott were unstoppable, and they provided a sturdy anchor for the band’s sound, making sure the vocals and guitars didn’t float away into the vastness of T5. The best moments of the show were the explosions of sound directed by the rhythm section in between all the prettiness.
That’s not to say the prettiness wasn’t present. Goswell’s vocals sounded outstanding on song’s like “Machine Gun” and Slowdive’s cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair,” and the guitars shimmered through the entire set.
The band of course played their biggest hit, “Alison,” which Halstead referred to as their “pop” song. “It’s as pop as we get,” Goswell clarified.
After “Alison,” Slowdive closed with “Golden Hair” before returning for a two song encore. Before they played their final track of the night, “40 Days,” Goswell said that they hope to be back in NYC next year with new material. If that’s not the most apt way to close out CMJ, I don’t know what is.
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