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Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, Bush Hall, London, May 24th 2010

May 29, 2010

California band Mazzy Star formed out of the ashes of fine ‘Paisley Underground’ bands Rain Parade, the Dream Syndicate and Opal, producing three great ‘slowcore’ albums in the 90s. Their musical roots, influences and bedfellows were many, including the Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500 and My Bloody Valentine. When they fell apart, lead singer Hope Sandoval formed the Warm Inventions with former My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig, reprising much of Mazzy Star’s droning, delicate slowcore style.

I hadn’t seen either Mazzy Star or Hope Sandoval before, so I was expecting much, especially given the £30 ticket price. I joined Al the Manc for a few pre-gig ales and we took our places before the show, pleased to hear Danny Whitten’s Look At All The Things over the PA. But that’s when things took a turn for the worse. A really annoying voice came over the PA telling us that there would be strictly no cameras and no flash photography – twice. Oh well, we haven’t had many superstars at Bush Hall before… The gig started well enough, with a nicely sung version of Bert Jansch’s old song Courting Blues:
   Green are your eyes
   In the morning, when you arise,
   Don’t you be afraid to lie
   By me, my love,
   Your father will not know.

Hope has collaborated with Bert before and appeared on his 2002 album Edge Of A Dream as well as guesting at his 60th birthday bash a few years ago.

The sound remained resolutely slow and dreamy and I was put in mind of the Velvet Underground fronted by Nico – only Hope is a better singer in the traditional sense – but there was little in the way of variety as the evening progressed. And my worries that Hope is a bit of a diva were slowly confirmed as she hid her face from the audience and sang without expression.

My humour wasn’t helped by the light show and backdrop, which showed a series of Velvets-like images, bubbles and projections, but which repeatedly included scenes from one of those nuclear blast films from the 50s with trees bending in the blast (see left). This, as far as I know, has nothing to do with the music or the lyrics or the bands attitude to anything in particular, so why show it? How about some pretty shots of brightly coloured napalm blowing up a few Vietnamese villages? I remember Crass showing these nuclear images on stage many years ago, but they were singing Nagasaki Nightmare and warning of the dangers of war. What was Hope’s excuse?

Her website goes some way towards explaining her stage manner:

Hope is a very shy and private person, and doesn’t seem to enjoy the popularity very much. ‘For me recording is better,’ says Sandoval. ‘Live, I just get really nervous. Once you’re onstage, you’re expected to perform. I don’t do that. I always feel awkward about just standing there and not speaking to the audience. It’s difficult for me.’

Well, I’d suggest she’d be far more relaxed on stage by dropping all those annoying camera announcements and by trying to engage with the audience. Oh, and if you don’t like performing, don’t charge 30 quid either…

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