Leeds Academy. 01.11.21.
First a disclaimer. I’m really not sure words and photos alone are going to be able to do justice to how good this gig actually was.
Anna Lena Bruland, aka EERA, opens tonight’s proceedings with a short but completely mesmorising set of songs, some of which date back to her 2017 debut album Reflection Of Youth, a couple more recent and some from her as yet unreleased album Speak, due December 3rd. Harsh blue light surrounds her, making sure you look nowhere else and indeed it’s some time before I even notice that tucked away at the back is both a drummer and bass player. Strumming an electric guitar, or playing simple keyboard sounds EERA’s songs take you to a place that could be dark but just as easily a place for contemplation, for the unravelling of jumbled thoughts. Songs about insecurity or tumultuous times. Reflection Of Youth and Christine are songs for sitting in a dark room and simply listening. More recent songs breath more confidence. Not exactly upbeat but with an atmosphere and punch that state “this is me and I’m breaking away from my past, a new beginning”. Solid Ground, Speak and particularly set closer Ladder, with it’s fuzzy guitar, rumbling bass and banging drums is a bold step forward. With Ladder EERA is perhaps stating “this is me and I’m now unstoppable”. A superb opening set that transcended the ignorant gits that, even nowadays, are arrogant enough to do nothing but talk throughout.
And this is not the last we’ll see of EERA as she’s also the owner of the wonderful vocals featured so much on Public Service Broadcasting’s new album. In particular the sublime single Blue Heaven.
Preceding the appearance of Public Service Broadcasting the band make a recorded announcement on mobile phone etiquette. “A few photos are OK”, “It’s much more enjoyable if you’re not watching through a four inch screen”. PSB are not telling us not to use our phones, they’re simply stating the obvious. That the resulting videos will sound crap and the show will look better through your own eyes and not a screen. There then follows the most perfect introduction to a show such as this. Bowie’s ‘Sound And Vision’ sets the atmosphere for what proves to be a gig that’ll be a highlight of 2021.
Recent album, Bright Magic, dominates their set. Based on a selective history of Berlin it pays homage to, amongst other things, the city’s heavy industry and it’s night club scene.
They open with Bright Magic’s first three tracks – Der Sumpf is a low key beginning, the band bathed in a cloak of green light before Im Licht (In The Light) builds in both tempo and visuals. In fact the sudden change in light to intense pure white is almost blinding. This song feels like a celebration and a quick glance around shows a crowd not just lost in the music but completely happy to be so. Der Rhythmus Der Maschinen, all heavy rolling beats and slicing guitars thumps straight through you like the industrial machines it references. People Will Always Need Coal from 2017’s Every Valley together with the slashing guitars, pounding drums and heavy punk feel of All Out are immense with their background visuals of the miners strike and battles between the police and miners. Aggressive and overtly political, emphasised at the end by the lone voice shouting ‘Fuck The Tories’ and the accompanying mutters of agreement. Progress, with it’s upbeat, incredibly danceable beat belies it’s subject matter. Sputnik and particularly Korolev with it’s rising, demandingly competitive background rhythm, sonic keyboards and chants of “Higher, Further, Faster Than Anyone” evoke perfectly the battle to dominate space. And throughout everything the huge background visuals fit perfectly with every song. Rockets and astronauts placing you bang in the moment.
EERA first appears for the beautifully laid back, melancholic Gib Mir Das Licht (Give Me The Light), her voice perfectly dreamy along with the wonderful accompanying saxophone courtesy of John ‘Rittipo’ Moore before the band launch into what must surely be one of the best singles of 2021 as EERA sings “I won’t let me down, let me down” over the rousing background of Blue Heaven. One crowd pleaser moves straight into another with Spitfire, introduced as always with the simple “This Is A Song About A Plane’.
Lichtspiel I, II and III with their laid back, ambient, experimental soundscapes drag us back to side 2 of Bowie’s ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’. Go, capturing the Apollo 11 moon landing, closes the main set and by this time the whole place is moving, chanting and punching the air in perfect union at every “Go!”. So catchy, repitive, layered with synths and guitars that build and build. To not be moved by ‘Go’ can only mean a complete numbness to music.
The four song encore includes the luscious, 80’s disco synth-pop inspired homage to Berlin’s club culture People, Let’s Dance. Huge, pixelated graphics recreate the dancing on screen together with accompanying brass which continues into the funk of Gagarin before Public Service Broadcasting close the night, as they usually do, with the tale of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing’s ascent to the summit of ‘Everest’. “You’re moving in a dream. A dream that deludes and debilitates. Two very small men cutting steps in the roof of the world”. Accompanied by the joyous dancing and brass of Rittipo and company it’s the perfect end to a perfect gig.
You don’t go and listen to Public Service Broadcasting. You go and experience them. The noise, the soundscapes, the movement, the visuals. Everything just fits together as it should. Not a single dull moment. Almost two hours where you lose yourself completely in what’s happening in front of you.
With seven nights left on the UK tour before they play abroad PSB then return to Ireland in the New Year. Still plenty of opportunity to see them on this tour and it’s thoroughly recommended that you do.
Photos and Review by Steve White