My Bloody Valentine Kool Haus, Toronto ON, November 5

My Bloody Valentine Kool Haus, Toronto ON, November 5
"Due to extreme volume at this show, it is highly recommended that you take and use the earplugs provided."

You've got to know what you're getting yourself into when you go see My Bloody Valentine live, and the promoter was wise to warn fans as they walked into the Kool Haus for the band's return. They are the loudest band that ever played live. I don't think you can even argue that.

Last playing here at the same venue five years ago (where the same precautions were taken), the biggest difference this time, besides some more grey hairs on Kevin Shields' head, was a new album — something fans have been waiting 22 years to hear.

For a band that plays so loud, the band weren't vocal, barely speaking to the audience. Instead they let the music talk, opening with three subdued tracks from Loveless: a thick, soupy overdriven version of "Sometimes," the dizzying sound FX of "I Only Said" and a hastier run through of "When You Sleep." There were psychedelic visuals catering to each song's tempo, mood and volume that heightened the experience, considering the band were rather static. And yes, they really do gaze at their shoes an awful lot.

The set scoured their career, circa Creation Records and beyond. Isn't Anything was acknowledged with a thrashing "You Never Should," while the early EPs were represented by the acoustic guitar-led "Cigarette In Your Bed," which gave much less relief on the ears than expected, as well as the driving force of "Honey Power." Newest album m b v got its share of attention, as they played "New You," "Only Tomorrow" and, though they lost some people with its disorientating jungle assault, the rave-y "Wonder 2."

Shields looked rattled and unsatisfied with the sound throughout the night, however. They needed three attempts to start "Thorn," which they ended up ditching, forcing a frustrated Shields to slam down his guitar. Thankfully, he maintained his cool and came back to play "Nothing Much To Lose," before he flubbed "Who Sees You" because of a tuning problem. That didn't seem to stop him from continuing "Only Shallow," which sounded like it was in a different key entirely, although it was tough to determine it through the scrawling cacophony.

They recovered for the final act, a trio featuring three of their best-known tunes. After 90 minutes, bodies started to move when that unmistakable loop of "Soon" kicked in, which was quickly dashed by the breakneck, sludgy drone of "Feed Me With Your Kiss." And then it hit.

Some people call it the "Holocaust section," others just call it deafening noise, but as they kicked into the closer, "You Made Me Realise," everyone in the cavernous room could sense it coming. A minute into the song, chests rumbled, clothes shook, hair stood up, and in a fitting visual display, the jets of a space shuttle took off. The earplugs they gave out didn't work. They needed their own earplugs. Five years ago, they made this din for 23 minutes, but because of a presumed curfew, they showed mercy and limited it to nine.

It's hard to imagine hearing any band perform a song louder, and that alone made it worth the price of admission. Whether those in attendance will have the ability to ever hear music the same after this, however, is a different story.