It’s been a long time since I last caught Psychic TV, in fact looking it up it was 1 May 1999 at The Royal Festival Hall. Veteran of many of their shows with a stack of live albums to boot it was high time to reacquaint myself and with the first night announced on the 24th selling out I actually bought a ticket for this show. I was well aware the focus would mainly be on new album ‘Snakes’ here which I was yet to pick up but armed with it on a dropcard and T shirt from the merch stall, expectations were certainly high.
Before the main event though we had an hours-worth of music from DJ Rhys Webb who was grooving on down with many psyche sounds of the 60’s all played on original vinyl too. It sounded pretty good and got those coming in atmospherically soaking things up. I may not have recognised much but bet bands like The Seeds were included along with others of their ilk. One that was worthy of a sing along was Arnold Layne, Moonshine washing line indeed. After this it was the turn of support band TOY and it appeared that their particular toy was a dry ice machine which filled up the busy venue and had us choking (which was useful as security were not letting us out to smoke yet.) As dense as the smoke was so unfortunately was the sound of the band, maxed up to the point of stupidity with everything completely mangled in the mix. I had been listening to the Brighton based group before I came out from what I could find online and was fully aware that somewhere under this was a good band, one with elements of psychedelia, indie and even a bit of dreampop but all you could hear was the kick drum and a muddy miasma from the guitars and bass. So basically we could neither see or hear things and it was a bit of a waste of everybody’s time to be honest. I got hints of everything from Joy Division, to Loop, My Bloody Valentine and The Mighty Lemon Drops from what I could distinguish and some stellar space rock towards the end proved promising. Christ knows what anyone whose acid kicked in during that would have made of it all!
So onto Psychic TV who come on to big applause after 2000 Light Years From Home proves an excellent intro piece. I’m not going into history here it is vast but Genesis Breyer P’Orridge sporting a spotlight on the centre of his head told us about living in London between 73 and 86, describing it as a time of lots of psychedelics. The stage certainly looks pretty trippy and to set the scene even more the band pile into their awesome cover of Hawkwind classic Silver Machine. On paper the song shouldn’t work but it does. The players, probably none of whom were around last time I caught the band prove formidable and take the song straight to space with keyboard retro overload going pretty much through the roof. Genesis’ voice is so unmistakable and with the glowing light s/he looks like some sort of all seeing omnipotent deity. “Has anyone noticed this planet sucks” we are asked, samples and trippy visuals combine and we go into near hippy nirvana with one of those new tracks instantly recognisable even after one previous listen as being ‘Burning The Old Home.’ It’s chilled in a Doorsy sort of way and soulful at first before getting jagged, acerbic and biting as it transcends genres and decades, being different yet comfortably the same as anything the band have done before. Psychic TV have definitely evolved backwards were my thoughts which seemed to make perfect sense at the time. Some rigorous drumming and a much more upbeat number ‘After You’re Dead. She Said’ lifts the spirits a bit before ‘Snakes’ itself slithers out building into a tribal bombast that is completely mesmerising; we are certainly charmed by the new songs.
Things get distinctly hyperdelic with the old rave style hinted at but never quite happening and taking us back to the acid house years, classics are teased at but never delivered, we are definitely being played with to a certain extent but the message is there ‘Nothing Matters But The End Of Matter.’ That was a heavy boogie going beyond any infinite beat and giving us a good work out even if the gathered throng was not prepared to go all out. I noticed there were no photographers at the show and committed a mortal sin and took a few snaps with a mobile hoping to get something usable to go with this. We finally get an old one and apparently it’s because Christmas is on the way. It’s the Santa Claus song better known as ‘White Nights’ from the excellent ‘Dreams Less Sweet.’ 1983 we are here. I have to admit it wasn’t an expected song at all but Gen’s voice really shines through during its emotive ballad like touch. By complete contrast Overdriven Overlord aka Interstellar Overdrive is left to batter us through a black hole and back and proves a fitting finale. I certainly enjoyed the show but it didn’t have me really thinking I had to go back the next night and try begging, borrowing or stealing a ticket. Apparently they are playing a different set and if I find out it’s all classics I’m gonna be peeved. Hopefully visits to London will not be quite so infrequent in the future though and Psychic TV can never be accused of musically stagnating. Now time to work out how to get this dropcard album downloaded.
(Review and crappy mobile photos Pete Woods)