Review by Laila Karkori, photos by Sophia Risin.
On the night of October 12th in the dimly lit expanse of San Francisco’s Warfield, I watched crowds uniformly dressed in black converge, eagerly awaiting the arrival of shoegaze pioneers Slowdive. Their presence echoed the ambiance of Slowdive’s Souvlaki album cover, creating an atmosphere that felt like stepping into a real-life manifestation of the band’s iconic artwork. It was as if the crowd had mirrored the album’s enigmatic cover with their dark attire. I observed a mix of seasoned enthusiasts who likely followed Slowdive since their early days and younger generations who likely were drawn in by the band’s revival and the timeless allure of their sound. The generational diversity was a testament to Slowdive’s appeal, bridging the gap between eras and musical taste.
Slowdive were wrapping up a month-long U.S tour following the release of their 2023 album everything is alive, with San Francisco being one of the final stops. The floor was already packed as I walked in to watch the darkwave duo Drab Majesty take the stage. Although I could not see much of the stage from my point of view, the mix of their gothic sound and avant-garde fashion created a mesmerizing visual and auditory experience.
The anticipation in the room soon reached its peak as Slowdive emerged on the stage to the tune of Brian Eno’s “Deep Blue Day,” followed by a wave of applause and cheers. As a long-time Slowdive listener, this was a surreal moment; I never thought I would have the opportunity to see them perform live, so I cheered along with years of admiration and reverence on my mind. They began their set with “shanty,” showcasing their newest release, and the stage was lit with red beaming lights.
Throughout the night, the band effortlessly transitioned between their newer tracks and older classics, satisfying both longtime fans and newcomers alike. To my delight, they consecutively played four of my favorite songs “Sugar for the Pill,” “Slomo,” “Alison, and “When the Sun Hits”, creating an indescribable blend of nostalgia and beauty that I felt grateful to experience. “Slomo” in particular stole the show with the exquisite blend of Neil Halstead’s and Rachel Goswell’s vocals. A moment I looked forward to the most was hearing the lyrics “My love and I go it’s a curious woe / Like dreamers at dawn, awake but not yet” which beautifully filled the venue, blending seamlessly with the dreamy instrumentals. The setlist felt like a skillful selection with an array of songs that had universal appeal. Each person seemed to find joy in hearing at least one of their all-time favorites, their faces lighting up with recognition as the band moved from one cherished track to another.
Slowdive closed their set with their rendition of “Golden Hair” by Syd Barrett. The stage was flashing red, mirroring the intensity of the song as their final notes played throughout the venue. And just when it seemed like the night had reached its peak, Slowdive re-emerged onto the stage for their encore. They satisfied the audience’s desire for more by performing three more crowd favorites, “Dagger,” “the slab,” and “40 days.” The crowd stood in reverent applause as the band walked off to the tune of Brian Eno’s “An Ending”, bringing the show to a close the same way it had commenced. I was holistically impressed by Slowdive’s energy and seamless performance; they not only matched, but exceeded the sound of the recordings we all knew so well. I was left in awe of their skill and artistry.
Reluctant for the show to end, I slowly left the venue walking behind a group that seemed to share my sentiment, still singing lyrics from “40 Days” as they trailed off. I sent a melodramatic photo to my sister showing my mascara streaked face from (very nonchalantly) crying during every Souvlaki song. The show left an indelible impression on me, and it was clear from the faces of the people around me that they felt the same. I took the train home shuffling through their discography, feeling eager to see what creative brilliance Slowdive will bring next.