Hope Sandoval wants to be heard, not seen. If that wasn’t made apparent by the strict ‘no photography’ rule, it should have been when she made her way onto a candlelit stage cloaked in shadows. Dressed in all black, there was nothing more than that signature seductive voice and a little flash of flesh separating the hem of her dress and her knee high boots to differentiate her from the other musicians in the band. But that was enough. No one goes to a Mazzy Star show expecting a charismatic stage presence — it’s that voice, coupled with a band that defines precise musical prowess, that draws the crowd in.
This is why the Ogden Theatre was not only (almost) silent throughout their full set, but it stayed dark as well. Looking down on the crowd from the balcony, there was not a single cell phone to be seen. This would not be out of the ordinary when they toured for their last album 17 years ago, but it is nothing less than extraordinary in 2013. The level of respect the band received was something that I have never experienced in all my years of going to shows. And they deserved it. There have been countless bands that have followed in Mazzy Star’s footsteps, but I am at a loss to think of one that can create such a feeling of solidarity with their fans in a live setting. The fact that they can do this with their music alone (Hope might have said five words to the crowd) is fascinating to me.
A good portion of setlist brought me back to high school, as I’m sure it did for many in the audience, but I wasn’t even a fan of the band back then. I dated girls who were though. And somehow songs like “Halah”, “Blue Flower” and “Fade Into You” found a place to hibernate in my head. With each chord and haunted vocal, my mind was pierced with darts dipped in nostalgia. I wasn’t alone. It was during “Into Dust” that I was almost uncomfortable in the deafening silence of those around me. David Roback and Hope Sandoval were the only people making noise in a room of thousands, but the weight of the collective memories filling the space made it hard to breath.
Having released Seasons of Your Day earlier this year, the band made the right choice by only dedicating a handful of new songs to the set. As excellent as that album is, it was the trek through their first three releases that made this such an unlikely event. It was literally a dream setlist for any fan of the band. I didn’t realize how diverse those songs were until seeing them performed live. ‘Dream pop’ is an appropriate label for some of the material, and having My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó Cíosóig on bass justifies the ‘shoegaze’ association, but quite a few of those songs are ‘country’ in nature — an aspect which was highlighted by Josh Yenne’s pedal steel contribution.
I’ve read that the majority of Hope’s lyrics are about heroin addiction, but for those who have never struggled with chemical dependencies, those words translate well to the chemical reaction between young lovers — and the inevitable crash that happens when that love comes to an end. I’ve always imagined a heroin high to be like that of a budding relationship — a state of sensual calmness in knowing you are exactly where you want to be at that moment in time — all you have to do is hold on while it builds into something euphoric — keeping your eyes wide open so you don’t miss that split second when everything peaks at perfection — before the demons on the other side make themselves known. I can’t explain how they did it, but Mazzy Star were able to recreate that feeling with their performance. They carried us to that peak amid the darkness of the Ogden Theatre. Not only that, they let us down easy — like only seasoned professionals can do.
Look on Down From the Bridge
In the Kingdom
Lay Myself Down
Ride It On
Does Someone Have Your Baby Now?
She Hangs Brightly
Fade Into You
So Tonight That I Might See
I’ve Been Let Down