Lush live 6-7/05/2016 @ The Roundhouse, London
When Lush started getting critical acclaim, I had less years than Miki's guitar had strings (12). Actually, when their first release came to light (Scar, in 1989), I had even less than those from Emma's (6)!
My journey into the whole shoegaze world began way later, after a close friend of mine introduced me to the mandatory fuchsia covered album: it was love at first listen, as I already wrote many times about.
I tend to appreciate and eventually fall in love with everything that comes from a past, secluded era: it happens with literature, fine arts, historical periods and of course popular music. Even if shoegaze as a genre is quite recent, its first wave lived for a very precise timespan, whose upper bound I can place at the middle of the nineties: by then all of its main actors either disbanded, put themselves on an indefinite hiatus, changed name and/or sound.
Of course they could not outpower the fierce Seattle sound revolution from overseas, nor they could stand a chance against the local britpop rising plague*: enough to mark the whole thing as an obscure curio from XX century.
* don't get me wrong, I do love many grunge and britpop acts. But two or three more years of genuine shoegaze wouldn't have hurt.
So I read their stories, dug their catalogs, learnt to love all that blue yet soothe music. I even wrote stories wondering about meeting certain members of the bands, curated whole websites about the genre (here and here), when all of a sudden, many of those started to reunite and go back either to studio or stage (or to both!). I had then the most beautiful time travelling in order to see My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive. But I really had no hope that Lush could do the same, due to the tragic event that led them to split, and I always understood and respected that.
Till I read a not-so-cryptic announcement, from the band itself:
24 hours.— Lush (@lushbandtweets) September 27, 2015
Album or tour? The day after they cleverly confirmed the 6th of May show at the London Roundhouse, whose ticket I bought as soon as it appeared on the venue website. The event sold out in a few hours, so they scheduled another for the day after: I got an entry for that as well, this time for a seat place, in order to live it from a different perspective, as I did for the two wonderful Slowdive concerts at The Forum.
Let me rephrase the whole introduction in a more concise way: LUSH ARE BACK IN TOWN FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
Time passed quickly, winter in Berlin was pretty mild for its standard, trees started blossoming and the time for my London trip finally came: I stayed at a dear friend of mine's, living in Albion since some months. His presence helped me quite much not to feel overwhelmed by the city's chaos, because the german capital feels to me really like a little village in comparison!
Friday evening, time to reach the Roundhouse. To my great disappointment, Camden is more and more full of rubbish and ignorant tourists, and I have almost no pleasure to wander there anymore, at least at night. Luckily enough, concert attendance seemed to be from a different league, and I managed to reach the second row below the stage.
The wait was gladly eased by Pixx, with her polyhedric diadem and her Fraser-esque voice - you wouldn't say, for a 4AD artist. She had the warmest attitude, joking and teasing the public all time, displaying total comfort with being on stage: a brilliant appetizer to what was coming next.
Around quarter past nine, we recognise a familiar piece coming out from the speaking system, namely the Spooky remix of Undertow, stage gets lit up and four figures enter it: behind the well known Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson (guitars) and Philip King (bass), sits Justin Welch (drums) of Elastica.
They play De-Luxe and bam, it's 1990 again: Berlin's wall has just been teared down, @GaryLineker is leading the Three Lions to World Cup semifinals. After Breeze, we fasten up tempo with Kiss Chase and Hypocrite.
It's Lovelife turn: besides being one of the rare cases of song giving name to an album it is not contained into, it has the simplest and catchiest riff and bridge, yet the entwine of Emma and Miki's voices make me thrill like the first time I heard it.
Personal note: it is almost one year now since I started getting guitar lessons, resolution that I should have taken at least twenty years ago, while I was struggling at learning how to tickle the ivories. Now that I have the means to notice, I scrupulously observe what Emma and Miki are doing over the fretboard - nothing overly complicated, yet tremendously effective and passionate. Every concert is now a free class to me!
It's in songs like Lit Up, that you can really appreciate their extensive harmonic labor: albeit some may find changing chord every quarter of measure pure manierism, I see it as a way to release the tension before going back to the verse. But let's stop talking about boring music technicalities now, and let's go back to what's happening on the scene: everybody screams out of excitement, when they recognise the mallet intro of Light from a Dead Star, that sounds even better than in the record!
Do yourself a favour now, and check how beautiful the guitars on Scarlet are. Do yourself another favour, put the needle on For Love (because you have a it on vinyl somewhere, don't you?), crank up the volume and start the party.
This was the first Lush song I've ever listened to. That bass intro sounds like a panther entering your living room: graceful but impossible not to notice. To see and to listen to it live, for two days in a row, has always been a forbidden dream to me, now real against all guesses!
They play one of their new tracks, the aforementioned Out of Control taken from Blind Spot: they know everybody is there for what they have written before, yet they are mostly proud to share their recent efforts with us. We all look forward to a new album!
Audience is being pretty placid, until I notice something sweaty from behind trying to sneak past me. I silently but firmly enforce my rights to see the concert from privileged position by holding it, I turn around and I see a couple of amusing fans from the real era in a rapture of ecstasy, trying to reach the first row for the final part of the gig. Straight from 1992, judging by their age and outfit.
There is people that blamed Lush for having jumped over the britpop bandwagon, like The Boo Radleys did for instance, because of their last album Lovelife: please name a band that would not murder in order to write songs half as good as Ladykillers - while you take your time, be sure to watch this:
I love Ladykillers. I love the drums/voice break, I love the voice lines, I love the lyrics, I love the video where they play it after The Smashing Pumpkins at a TV show, I just love it so much that tomorrow morning I will put it loud on repeat until the police calls in. And not that I am going to stop it then, anyways.
They close the show with the explosive Downer and the massive Sweetness and Light. We jump up and down through the whole songs with the blast-from-the-past fellas.
At the beginning of the encore, Miki carries the band's thought to Chris, remembering it for the brilliant person he was, and not just for the final, bitter bit, and we couldn't agree more. Thank you for everything, you beautiful soul.
They play Stray, Desire Lines and Leaves Me Cold before leaving for the second time. But the generous ovation summons them back again, and they give us the warmest goodnight with Monochrome.
I join then my friends for a couple of drinks over to a party somewhere in East London, and eventually get some rest at home. The day after we stroll through Hyde Park, see a beautiful exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, then I head again to the Roundhouse, with less rush today as I have a reserved seat.
After the opening act (this time Spectres, out on Sonic Cathedral), the show begins again. Miki apologises for wearing the same (splendid) outfit of the day before, but nobody really took the offence.
The setlists of both dates are identical, and even with the differences in perspective and expectation, I spare you a similar report, besides a couple of details: Miki kindly asks to put down the phones in order not to preclude who's behind from seeing (and to focus on the now!), Miki tells that Ladykillers is about creeps and not men in general.
The final mention goes to Desire Lines, in my opinion their greatest music achievement. This second time, I listen to it with my eyes closed, letting the song get into me, carry out all my hindering thoughts and give me a seven minutes and a half long taste of heaven.
I stay two days more in London, I have a Godard run of both Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Visiting the latter, at the end of JMW Turner's section I notice a sign leading to two rooms that with all shame I did not see during my previous visits in the gallery: words are useless.
I pack my stuff and as I fly back to Berlin my heart is still beating after Lush and pre-raphaelite paintings, both exquisite exemplars of finest British art.
Yes, even if Miki is a gorgeus hungaro-japanese, and Rossetti was of direct italian ascendence.