Live: Public Service Broadcasting / Pale Blue Eyes

Public Service Broadcasting at the UEA (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Public Service Broadcasting at the UEA (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

UEA, Norwich October 2, 2022

by Niki Jones

The headliners are going to need an awful lot of room, which forces tonight’s openers Pale Blue Eyes to squash themselves in front of the wall of synthesisers.

Not that this deters the Devon/Sheffield three-piece at all.

Perfectly matched: Pale Blue Eyes (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Perfectly matched: Pale Blue Eyes (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

Evoking an early-80s post-punk sound, the rhythm section of drummer Lucy Broad and bassist Aubrey Simpson pound out a Joy Division beat which pairs beautifully with singer/guitarist Matt Broad’s mellifluous vocals and expansive guitar tone, bringing to mind a glorious mix of The Smiths and early-Cure on songs such as Star Vehicle, and even nods to Krautrock on the joyous Dr Pong (perhaps hinting at why they caught PSB’s eye for this tour given their current album cycle).

It’s rare that a support band is such a perfectly suited aperitif to the main act, and Pale Blue Eyes certainly whet this sleepy Sunday crowd’s appetite.

Aubrey Simpson, of Pale Blue Eyes (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Aubrey Simpson, of Pale Blue Eyes (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

It’s somewhat fitting that Public Service Broadcasting are playing at a university. Each band member resembles the cool history teacher you hoped to get assigned to at school.

Each song is a mini lecture, set to post-rock tinged instrumentals, on topics as far reaching as World War 2, the space race and, er, Welsh coal mining. In fact, if PSB had been around when we were younger we might have done better in our A-levels.

PSB's J Willgoose Esq (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
PSB’s J Willgoose Esq (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

After a hilariously on-brand PA announcement about not watching the whole gig through your phone, they hit the stage with a volley of tracks from their latest album, Bright Magic.

Adorned in bright white suits and illuminated by floor-to-ceiling projections, J Willgoose Esq (to give him his full epithet) and his merry band of misfits make for a captivating sight, considering what is essentially a bunch of people stood behind keyboards.

Wrigglesworth at the UEA (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Wrigglesworth at the UEA (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

The new album, a love letter to the music and culture of Berlin, makes up the lion’s share of tonight’s show, with keyboard player and vocalist EERA providing the majority of the (often German) vocals, making songs including Gib Mir Das Licht and the infectious Blue Heaven really shine.

Banks of screens accompany the songs with clips from old news pieces, glorious 8-Bit graphics of dancing roller-skaters, and live footage filmed by keyboard player and visual genius Mr B from the stage.

Mr B and J Willgoose Esq (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
Mr B and J Willgoose Esq (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

They still leave room for the old stuff, and fan favourites Night Mail, Spitfire and the ever moving London Can Take It all get an airing.

Few bands of their type can manage to get a crowd going quite like they can. Go! gets the crowd chanting like they’re at a rally, and there’s nothing that can describe that moment during a PSB show when the crowd falls silent as the astronauts disappear behind the moon during the atmospheric The Other Side from the 2014 The Race For Space opus (and then the cheers when the astronauts regain contact with ground control).

EERA (left) and Mr B (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)
EERA (left) and Mr B (Picture: Niki Jones Photography)

They close with a jubilant version of Gagarin (featuring the most upbeat horn section this side of a mid-90s ska band) and the classic ode to Edmund Hilary, Everest.

Then they leave us – a little brighter and, yes, maybe a little wiser.

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