Reunion gigs, especially from bands absent for long periods of time, can all too often feel forced, driven by money or a need to recapture the glory days. But sometimes, even if those motivations are there, the chemistry is so good between the players that it doesn’t matter why they’ve reunited. Each member is a puzzle piece that just fits together as if no time has passed, recreating a perfect sound and feeling, and maybe even conjuring new ones.
This was the case last night at the Roxy, where U.K. shoegaze pioneers Lush put on a blissfully layered and potent show, one that we’re guessing was even better than their Coachella turn on Saturday.
The Roxy appearance was initially scheduled as a warmup for weekend one of Coachella but, due to visa problems, the band was forced to cancel the gig last-minute and miss the festival’s opening weekend. They resolved their issues last week and made it to the United States in time to play Seattle on Wednesday and weekend two in the desert. By all accounts, the Coachella set was a satisfying return to stage, though in the press, it was seemingly overshadowed by another “reunion,” Ice Cube and Dr. Dre doing N.W.A, as well as the many festival acts who paid homage to Prince.
But being overshadowed isn’t exactly new to the half-female quartet, who are often mentioned in round-ups with dreamy and dissonant rock gods like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, if not exactly held up as equals to them. Maybe lead singer Miki Berenyi’s crimson hair was too bright, or maybe the band’s songs were too emo. Co-singer/guitarist Emma Anderson has said that working on breaking out in the United States was particularly challenging for the group, and when the band lost drummer Chris Acland to suicide in 1996, it was time to call it quits.
The return to the stage is surely bittersweet for the band, but last night it felt rather celebratory, especially during better-known numbers such as “De-Luxe,” “For Love” and “Ladykillers.” Acland’s hypnotic rhythms are now being played by Elastica’s Justin Welsh, and he doesn’t miss a beat, while Anderson and bassist Phil King riff together relentlessly to make the bold and at times brutal wall of sound that is the band’s signature. In the same way, Anderson's vocals compliment Berenyi’s — ethereal and beauteous as ever, whether the track calls for an airy-fairy register or something with more heft.
Not content to do a basic nostalgia tour, Lush have released a new EP, Blind Spot, to coincide with the tour. The first single, “Out of Control,” is as wistful and fierce as anything from their classic 4AD catalog. Coachella may have been a catalyst for the reunion, but the Roxy show’s atmospheric vibe and the band's still-palpable onstage chemistry suggests smaller indoor rooms will be the best way for fans to get lost in Lush’s ominous, Brit-pop perfection. Luckily for L.A., the band announced they'll be back at the Fonda later this year.