Mazzy Star / Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Dominic Simpson heads to Mazzy Star and checks out the original band the current crop are emanating...
When Mazzy Star emerged in the early 90s, their hypnotic brand of droning, feedback-laced minimal rock and languid folk seemed out of step with the twin trends of Madchester and grunge. Essentially downer music, it’s as far from party or mosh music as you can get. Yet, twenty years on, they’ve turned out to be hugely influential on everyone from The Concretes to Beach House, and inspire devotion from a sold-out audience as they appear onstage and launch into “Blue Flower” from She Hangs Brightly, their first album, and probably their most cheerful, up-tempo number. An arresting presence at the front of the stage, and standing in near-darkness with a tambourine, Hope Sandoval is the nearest focus, while the accompanying musicians – including founding member David Roback and My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó Cíosóig – can be discerned against a backdrop of sepia-tainted black-and-white photos projected on the venue’s screen. Between rocking out to ‘Ghost Highway’ and the more intimate acoustic songs of their three albums – including big hit ‘Fade Into You’, which gets a big cheer from the crowd - the band also noticeably test out new material: not only the alt-countryish “Lay Myself Down” from their new double-A side single, but also some unnamed tracks, including one involving Roback harnessing his slide guitar while Sandoval wails unexpectedly bold distressing blues into the mic.
But the true highlights are those tracks which connect the band’s core haunting sound with their undeniable antecedents: The Velvet Underground and The Doors. Dominated by hypnotic organ, ‘Venus In Furs’-style primitive drums, and Roback’s echoing slide guitar, and drawn out to nearly ten minutes each, the title tracks of She Hangs… and So Tonight That I Might See, their second album, are utterly spellbinding, the latter climaxing with an extraordinary wah-wah-filled crescendo. It’s a set finale that’s difficult to top, and the audience knows it.