Slowdive formed way back in 1989 and released their first album Just a Day in 1991. Two subsequent albums shortly followed before various members departed, going on to work on various projects including the band Mojave 3. Their last record was released a whole 22 years ago, yet unlike many other bands who make a return to the music circuit after a long break, they aren’t currently touring a ‘Greatest Hits’, but a new 2017 self-titled album release. It is nothing short of incredible that after all this time, they can produce a record that is fresh, exciting and unique.

Tonight, part way through their UK tour stint they are headlining my favourite venue in Manchester – the Albert Hall. Support for the gig comes from the experimental Blanck Mass, who rather than igniting the evening, unfortunately the set seems to fall flat. And despite the clear electro talent, I get the sense that the room is feeling relief rather than inspiration as he finishes.

In stark contrast, the anticipation for Slowdive fills the once cathedral to its core – fans are perched on edges of seats, checking their watches, and it becomes obvious that a lot of people have been waiting decades for this moment. On the other side, I feel a bit of a fraud: I’ve had a relatively recent discovery of their music, but still feel the optimistic buzz that they won’t disappoint.

Opening with the remarkable, gentle ‘Slomo’, also the intro track from the latest album, the seven minute song showcases the mesmerising heights of this group and the vocals of Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead. It leads into ‘Star Roving’, a glorious swirl of catchy riffs and dance drum beats. It’s the nearest they’ve come to a pop song, it bounces off stage into the rhythm of the crowd. Interspersed with new songs are moments from the old albums, including ‘Crazy For You’, the truly dreamlike ‘Blue Skied an’ Clear’ and the slightly grungier wistful ‘Slowdive’.

Throughout the set there isn’t much direct interaction between band and crowd – sometimes at gigs the lack of chat from the stage can leave an audience feeling less connected, but with Slowdive’s shoegaze sound encapsulating the audience into a fantasy state, it has the opposite effect, and if there were distinct breaks between songs it would burst the bubble that we’ve all found ourselves nicely floating in.

The new album tracks are the songs that stand out the most, but it’s in the well applauded encore that I find my new favourite: ‘Dagger’, from the 1994 album Souvlaki, is beautiful and raw, it captures both the beauty of the harmonies as well as despair and heartbreak with its words and meaning. As the band leave the stage, balding 40-year-olds hug each other, teenagers nod approvingly, and I think the guy next to me still in his business workwear may have a tear in his eye.

I might not have been a fan back in 1989, or the 1990s, but in 2017, I am.

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Sarah Starkey

I am a Freelance Writer who is a bit music obsessive. Previously written for the likes of Music Vita and Planet Ivy. Life highlights include winning £2.50 on the Euro-millions.