MAZZY STAR/DOLPHIN SMILE Hop and Grape, Manchester University 21/10/93

Mazzy Star are an American band who play a kind of stoned new-Country music, which fortunately has more in common with the Velvet Underground than Billy Ray Cyrus, and despite only acquiring their two albums twenty-four hours before the gig, the opportunity to catch their first British tour was too good to miss.

The Hop and Grape is an agreeably small venue pretending to be a bar, and just about the best place for an evening's muted introspection. Dolphin Smile have a jangly, chirpy, strummy attitude and aren't quite as twee as their name, praise be, but such jollity was a bit incongruous in context.

Mazzy Star, however...singer Hope Sandoval looks like a truncated cross between Kate Moss and Bjork, and has obviously spent much time studying Nico's tambourine manner. She also drinks from the other side of a glass...isn't that supposed to cure hiccoughs or something? Her stage manner is limited to cowering behind the microphone and closing her eyes a lot. The only communication comes from the songs, which were gorgeous.

They played doom-ridden gems like "Mary Of Silence", the lovely "Halah", an acoustic version of "Ride It On", "Ghost Highway" swimming in bucketloads of atmosphere and, to the biggest cheer of the night, "Into Dust", with just guitar and violin. No sign of "Five String Serenade", which all the Love fans in the audience were no doubt anticipating, and "Fade Into You", though, although the ten-plus encore minutes of "So Tonight That I Might See", which sounds almost like the lyrics of The Velvets "Murder Mystery" being read against the backing track of "All Tomorrow's Parties" whilst being slowly immersed in a vat of warm honey. Honestly, The music was absolutely gorgeous too: a solid backdrop of bass, drums and Doorsian keyboards with guitar feedback, harmonica and violin overlayed: the sort of music that you imagine wouldn't really come off live, but here, in a sympathetic venue, succeeded in surpassing the textures of their studio work. My companion said it was the best gig he'd ever seen, and it was definitely like nothing I'd ever witnessed before.

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions