An hour before My Bloody Valentine took the stage at Roseland Ballroom last night, the neighboring Duane Reed had sold all but one pack of earplugs. Inside the club, security guards encouraged concertgoers to grab free handful of plugs from a box by the door. We asked ourselves: Would you strap on a pair of Rollerblades before running with the bulls in Pamplona? Would you bring a toxicologist to hold your hand as you dined on Japanese blowfish? Given the rare opportunity to experience perhaps the loudest band ever to walk this earth, why would you opt to stick little foam phalluses into your ears?
Well, because the recently reunited My Bloody Valentine made good on its ear-searing mythology, and yes, it was painfully loud — terrifyingly loud, even. The crowd greeted the band with a roar that seemed quaint compared to sonics that were soon unfurled. With ear plugs — we popped them in for a minute — the band's guitar clamor enveloped us, warm and womblike. Without them, it felt like a brutal torrent of treble, Colm O Ciosoig's surprisingly muscular drum beats somehow punching holes through the cacophony. (The vocalists didn't fare as well — both Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher literally sounded buried, as if they were cooing from beneath a pile of dirty laundry.)
The decibels climbed, seemingly exponentially, with the set closer "You Made Me Realise," a song with a fifteen-minute noise interlude that sent hands reaching toward the ceiling and panicked faces scrambling toward the exits — and had us finally inserting, and leaving in, our complementary earplugs.