Saturday, 16 January 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go (Go!)

World music all the way from France via Bristol...
It has been a long week at work and play! I’m due at my fifth gig in six days and today I’ve been up early for work, managed to call home for half an hour before heading out to another work commitment, and when I finally get back home I am very tempted to kick off the shoes and relax in front of the ‘moron machine in the corner of my cell’! Do I go (Go!) to the gig? It’s wet and miserable out there. Do I go (Go!)?

Of course I go (Go!), but not with the usual anticipation. I’m back at the Brixton Academy, this time for the homecoming of Public Service Broadcasting, and as I inspect my ticket en route I realise I have booked the stalls and will be standing. My mood falls even more! I don’t want to be stuck behind the 6ft 4 guy and jostled by groups of friends and watch the gig through the camera screen of everyone in front of me! Why did I book the stalls?

As I arrive the support act are already playing and I feel a warming of my heart as I am greeted by a jangling West African guitar with electro acoustic double rhythm – this is world music all the way from France via Bristol! At least my grumpiness is put at bay and I am thinking about checking out eBay to see if I can buy some Francois & The Atlas Mountains CD’s!

The usual Goliaths who come to the same gigs as this David...
After my experience two nights ago at Union Chapel when my bag was moved and I lost my seat I stay firmly planted to my spot. As the crowd thickens, and there is the usual race for space, I am pleasantly surprised to find that I still have a good line of sight. The usual Goliaths who come to the same gigs as this David and obscure my view seem to have stayed at home!

With my spirits rising the band take the stage and their intro raises my spirits even more as they encourage people to watch the gig through their own eyes and not through their cameras!  Throughout the whole set my spirit continues to soar. I cannot believe I had been thinking about staying at home. I would have missed what is a very strong contender for my gig of the year.

There is a real art to producing a great live performance. I have droned on about stage presence and communication with an audience, and about not just replicating the CD. But what Public Service Broadcasting show tonight is that you can communicate with an audience through a computer generated voice. That you can have stage presence with a carefully and cleverly designed set of projection. And that these things can make the experience a delight for the audience.

Two large screens with two smaller ones in front, and a stack of four old TV’s each side of the stage make for a multi-media experience that attacks the visual sense but never overpowers the aural. Instead it builds layer after layer, enhancing everything. Yet the visual is not restricted to the 2D, as during the wonderful ‘Gagarin’ two cosmonauts dance on the sides of the stage to rapturous applause. The result of the bombardment of audio and visual has us transfixed.

The well-mined quarry of modern music...
The juxtaposition of old public service films, propaganda, archive footage and a live band is out of this world. Nothing seems anachronistic. It weaves a spellbinding whole that links last century's pioneering race for space to the modern-day pioneers of rock and roll. The drive to explore space is the perfect theme for a group who are not content to extract from the well-mined quarry of modern music, but seek a new frontier.

Engrossed as I am in the gig (gig is too shallow a word for the event I am witnessing) I allow myself a little self-indulgent what-if… What if I had stayed at home? I dismiss the thought – it simply doesn’t bare thinking about. I would have missed a mesmerizing experience!

As I walk home on the damp pavements of Coldharbour Lane I reflect on the difference in my mood compared to the journey to Brixton. I so often use music to lift my spirit or express my feelings. Loud blaring music on the car stereo after a rubbish meeting, shouting every word of Script for A Jester’s Tear at Reading Rock ’83 after breaking up with a girlfriend, raising the clenched fist of solidarity to a great protest song, laughing at a truly genius comedy song. Tonight was something different, tonight I wasn’t expecting anything and I was given so much.

To fill the reservoir of hope...
It has been good to be here tonight and I want to stay longer, but as I walk home I walk back - having stepped out of it for a while – to all that life is throwing at me. The mountain top experience of the Public Service Broadcasting gig is over and I still face all that I was facing before,  but I have had that experience and my life is richer for it.  Will work be any the less demanding – no. Will solutions fall out of the sky – no. Will life be easy – no. Has my life been enriched by the gig – yes. Did I need to capture it on my phone – no!

That is the thing with mountaintop experiences. They happen every so often, but the valley is still there and it takes quite an effort to climb to the top! We can enjoy the view but we have to climb down again. The best mountaintop experiences tho’ touch your life. They are transforming, and can be stored and taken away into every dispute, disappointment and despair to fill the reservoir of hope we draw on to get through - if London Can Take It - then with a little help from artistic highs - so can we all!

Gig: 40 of 50
Date of Gig: Sun. 29th November 2015

Brixton Academy

Public Service Broadcasting
Francois & The Atlas Mountains

Running total of artists seen 86

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