Review: Slowdive @ Enmore Theatre (Sydney)

Slowdive played Enmore Theatre (Sydney) 21 July, 2023.
David James Young is a music writer and podcaster, working in Wollongong on Dharawal land.

2023 has seen Newcastle newcomers dust gain considerable momentum

A quick highlight reel presents the release of their debut EP, sold-out dates of their first headlining tour, and support runs with both Hockey Dad across the UK and Trophy Eyes here in Australia.

Tonight (21 July), however, marks the band's biggest show to date (supporting UK's Slowdive) – and with a already-full Enmore Theatre watching on, the post-punk quintet have no intention of letting such an opportunity be fumbled.

Their motorik intensity fills the hallowed halls of the theatre, blending unwieldy free-jazz saxophone with a propulsive rhythm section and wiry, reverberating guitars.

The frenetic, pacing 'Ward 52' has even more adrenaline in the live domain, while the drop-D snarl of debut single 'The Gutter' still rolls and tumbles with street-tough precision.

Concluding their brief but nonetheless impactful set with 'Joy/Guilt', a spoken-word spiral of clattering electronic beats and surrealist poetry, you can consider the band's statement well and truly made. If most of the room came in as strangers, there's no question the majority are leaving tonight as dust fans.

It's not been an easy journey back to Australia for Slowdive. The shoegaze veterans were meant to be in Australia three months prior as part of the Daydream mini-festival, but cancelled at the 11th hour on account of drummer Simon Scott suffering a back injury.

It caused a furore on social media, with the band themselves rightfully calling out so-called fans for a total lack of compassion, but thankfully once things had settled and Scott made a full recovery a new run of dates was able to proceed.

The attention certainly didn't hurt the band in the meantime: Upgrades were made to accommodate for demand, including a shift from the Metro Theatre to the twice-as-big Enmore here in Sydney.

Now, almost exactly three months after their originally-scheduled return, it's time to see whether the UK outfit has been worth the elongated wait.

From the lush beginnings of 'Slomo' into the band's eponymous song 'Slowdive', the room is awash with shimmering guitars and the guiding voices of both Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead – their vocals simultaneously bedroom intimate and starry-sky distant.

Both are largely reserved onstage, with minimal movement and only brief acknowledgements of the room at large. It's fair enough, too – the genre is so-named for a reason, and hardly built on the back of extroverts – but even still, the appreciation the band has for such an adoring and attentive crowd is clear with every wry smile and nod sent their way.

It's worth noting the majority of the audience was not even born when the band released their genre classic 'Souvlaki' all the way back in 1993 – and yet, they still hang on to every word and every guitar line.

This could have to do with their 2014 reunion introducing a whole new generation to the band, or perhaps even the TikTok crowd embracing their understated cool. Either way you cut it, it's heartening to see a band from the '90s not solely playing to beer-bellied Gen Xers – and, by proxy, that there's life in Slowdive yet after all these years.

On their behalf, the band have barely come empty handed. A new album awaits, for one, with the dreamy lead single 'Kisses' serving as a set highlight.

For another, however, Slowdive's visuals are absolutely arresting – an animated cylindrical drug spins hypnotically on the video screen during 'Sugar For The Pill', while 'Star Roving' offers a dizzying galaxy as the band plays on.

Rather than distract from the music, it enhances and accentuates what the five-piece are doing – adding a further dimension to what's already a deeply-layered affair.

As the set comes towards its end, a voice from the back of the room calls out as the band tunes. The punter is calling out for the band's signature song 'Alison', which is an odd choice –– that's like going to a Rolling Stones show and calling out for 'Satisfaction'. Of course they're gonna play it.

Looking up at the crowd with a twinkle in her eye, however, Goswell smirks. "It's funny you should say that," she says as the song's opening notes ring out across the Enmore to a rapturous ovation. Either that guy looked up the set list ahead of time or he's the luckiest guy in the room. Either way, great shout – literally.

With a stirring encore of 'Dagger' and '40 Days', Slowdive depart with little fanfare – which is fine, considering there's plenty of fanfare out on the floor as the applause rings out just as loud as the guitar amps.

A few more smiles, a few more small waves – just enough for Slowdive to say they see and hear us.

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