It was said of the Velvet Underground that only a handful of people ever saw them play live in their prime, but everyone who did went straight out and formed a band.
Slint’s influence on alternative rock’s DNA was a more shadowy affair – the US band celebrated finishing their landmark 1991 album Spiderland by immediately splitting up and never touring it at all. But over the decades, that record’s dark, compelling air of mystery began to assert its influence wherever there were sensitive young men with electric guitars and a taste for both brooding instrumentals and cathartic noisy bits – guitarist David Pajo’s skills have been called upon over the intervening years by the likes of Billy Corgan and Interpol.
But reformed by popular demand 20-odd years on, how do this most enigmatic of cult bands fare in the flesh, in front of a sold-out venue of expectant fans?
Certainly no-one was expecting Vegas-style showmanship from these introspective rock outsiders. Frontman-of-sorts Brian McMahan mainly lurks so far to the side of the stage he’s in danger of falling off, delegating a lot of his guitar parts and focusing on his cryptic, half-spoken vocals. But from the first bass pulse, the first of Britt Walford’s sparse, powerful drum beats, and the first driving chords and ringing harmonics from those guitars that build and release tension unpredictably, Slint have their audience mesmerised, willing to follow into the heart of darkness mapped out in songs like Breadcrumb Trail – Walford emerging from behind the kit to take over vocals and guitar for Don Aman.
The malevolent Good Morning, Captain is predictably powerful and unnerving. And when Washer completes its epic journey from bleak teenage wasteland to controlled fury, McMahan suddenly finds himself centre stage – coming dangerously close to rocking out.
Gig date: August 14