Outfitted in vintage suits and with hair and beard in part fastidiously groomed and in other part precisely neglected, the London trio The Joker & The Thief took to the stage for their support slot with self confidence by the barrel full. Towards the end of their set the threesome were revealed, by vocalist Dan, to each have a stylised and presumably self-selected nickname. If only the band had spent as much energy on the composition of their songs as they have on the composition of their aesthetics.
Whilst no doubt a tight performance from the London soul trio, The Joker & The Thief never managed to capture the attention or imagination of the audience; vaguely similar song begetting another, the only difference being a change from dispassionately played Sax to dispassionately played squeeze box. Throughout it was clear that The Joker & the Thief themselves were enjoying their performance far more than the audience ever did, which was particularly apparent during their last song – a rendition of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman“, which, though competently handled, was sorrowfully lacking any soul.
Before the main set sirens began to ring in the venue and the retro television sets piled around the stage sputtered to life with a warning of a deadly pandemic: W.M.P.C.D. (or Wafty Mobile Phone Camera Disorder). A voice from the loudspeakers warned the crowd of the rising number of fatalities that have been caused by dodgy mobile phone videoing during gigs, and assured the audience that the resulting videos were never as good as you would have hoped anyway. After that very British warning, the band entered to the sound of more sirens, this time from the War Room track ‘London can take it’, the television screens and projectors flashing with scenes of London at the height of the blitz.
Photo credit: Keith Curtis
Public Service Broadcasting, in keeping with the theme of the evening, played in uniforms into which thought and effort had been put to equal the aesthetic efforts of The Joker & The Thief, the difference between the two groups being a substantial jump in their quality and depth.
Drawing mainly upon material from their debut album “Inform – Educate – Entertain” Public Service Broadcasting made their performance look effortlessly cool. The background visuals which accompanied each song complementing, not distracting from the performance of the two band members on stage. Each track so carefully composed and put together it is difficult to imagine the voices sampled in every song in its original context, and you would be forgiven for thinking that they were recorded specially to fit the tune and rhythm of each song.
The sampling not only limited to songs, lead guitarist J. Willgoose Esq. nor bandmate and percussionist, Wrigglesworth, ever speak whilst on stage – relying on pre-recorded soundbites to thank the crowd and thwart the efforts of hecklers and song requesters. “It’s good to be back…” comes in one sampled voice, followed by “…Southampton” in another.
Photo credit: Keith Curtis
Though for the most part an unmistakably British performance from a band whose very name is bound to the British cultural identity (you could even buy a PSB branded tea towel from the merch stand), the band used the gig as an opportunity to reveal two new songs which were proudly presented as “both [being]in Dutch and both [being]about ice-skating”. “Elfstedentocht” parts one and two were played (though not in succession) to an audience who expressed a slight (though noticeable) confusion at to not be able to understand the sampled voices coming over the speakers. Overall though, the drive and rhythm of each song pulled the audience along and the powerful momentum of the gig continued undisturbed.
Throughout the show PSB showed not only their own quality, but also highlighted the potential of the Brook as a venue. The venue’s two tier audience layout and high stage enabling all of the audience to engage with the band and vice-versa (it’s a pity that the gig layout is usually reserved for a plethora of dubious cover bands). Ending their Autumn tour Public Service Broadcasting retired from the stage to delighted applause. “This is the end of the show…” came one voice, and another “…South Coast!”.