Slowdive @ O2 Academy, Liverpool, 21.02.24

Dream pop pioneers on glorious form at a capacity show, London texturalists Whitelands supply excellent support

Feb 21st, 2024 at O2 Academy, Liverpool / By Richard Lewis
Slowdive “Are we having a scream up?” Whitelands’ drummer / vocalist Jagun Meseorisa enquries from behind the kit. “You guys are too good for me” he grins considering whether he should join in. The appreciative whoops in question greet the close of Born In Understanding, the pellucid single that firmly announced the London quartet’s arrival.

An ideally suited entrée to tonight’s main course, the main room of the Academy is already pushing three-quarters full at Whitelands’ 8pm start time. The very decent turnout is rewarded with the lion’s share of Whiteland’s debut LP Night-bound Eyes Are Blind To The Day which hits the racks this week.

Piloted by Vanessa Govinden’s plangent guitar work, Setting Sun is iridescent, hook laden guitar pop, while The Prophet & I sees Etienne Quartey-Papafio’s lead vocals recall The Cure at their most lovelorn. With an extremely strong debut LP in the bag, future fixtures headlining rooms such as the present one seem entirely likely.

As several articles have recently highlighted, Slowdive’s burgeoning, unexpected popularity on TikTok has seen them cross over to an entirely new audience. As the room fills to the rafters, the crowd ranges in age from OGs – Original ‘Gazers – fans from the Thames Valley mob’s 1990s era via 2000s converts down to late teens.

Taking up position onstage, the pulsatant electronic undertow of shanty from last year’s excellent everything is alive, opens the set beneath swirling purple visuals. A superbly adrenalized blast through Star Roving from 2017s eponymously titled return swiftly follows while early days landmark Catch the Breeze winds the clock almost right back to the start. Beyond the opening troika, the setlist provides a full span of Slowdive's oeuvre, the refracted guitar refrain of Souvlaki Space Station nestling comfortably alongside indie pop confection kisses recorded thirty years later.

A triple hit of classics heralded by a gorgeous rendition of Alison is succeeded by the track that decisively won the hearts of a new generation as the chiming guitar intro of When the Sun Hits is greeted with a roar of recognition and the loudest chorus of the evening. 40 Days, piloted by the band’s hallmark harmony vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell showcases the influence of noise pop antecedents MBV and Cocteau Twins.

A gauzy Sugar for the Pill kickstarts the encore before the room falls impressively pin-drop silent for Dagger, the hushed opening played almost solo by Halstead. The quintet’s now standard closer, a monumental version of Syd Barrett classic Golden Hair sets the controls for the heart of the sun for eight glorious minutes. It matters where you are to quote a famous song and on this evidence Slowdive have never been in a better place.