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Live

Psychic TV
Piano Magic
Tabernacle, London
Tuesday November 3 2009

The surroundings are squeaky-clean, the bouncers are suited and booted in the traditional manner, and the only beer on offer is Red Stripe. In cans. At a price that ensures nobody's going to be rolling drunkenly in the aisles tonight. This is the Tabernacle: a 19th century church, all terracotta and towers, now transformed into an upmarket and eminently respectable community centre-cum-arts space, serving the well-heeled residents of Notting Hill.

Things weren't always so respectable around here, mind. In the 1960s, when Notting Hill was distinctly more downmarket, the Tabernacle was the counter-cultural home of such diverse outfits as the Mangrove Steel Band and the early, hippy-happening Pink Floyd.

Now we're in the twenty-first century, and the Tabernacle has undergone an eminently respectable revamp, even as its once-scruffy Notting Hill surroundings have been inexorably gentrified. The Mangrove Steel Band are still based here; Pink Floyd haven't been seen for years. This evening, there's a yoga class taking place in the back room - but, in the front room, maybe we'll recapture a touch of the old groovy vibe. Because tonight, the Tabernacle hosts a gig by Psychic TV.

Piano MagicUnfortunately, grooviness is in short supply early on. Our support band tonight, Piano Magic, don't feature a piano - or, it must be said, much in the way of magic. A collection of sensible musos trundle through a selection of blandly competent mid-tempo MOR workouts, guitars meshing in a just-so manner, vocals rolling melliflously over the top.

It's all neatly put together, but there's no sense that anyone on stage has any fire in their bellies, no hint that they're driven, inspired, to make music. I'm left with the impression that what we've got here is a collection of technically adept msicians who make music for no reason other than the quiet satisfaction of demonstrating that they are technically adept.

Well, if that's so, it's mission accomplished. But there's no hint of anything intangible in this performance, no spark, no emotional surge, no hint that anything beyond mere competence is at work here. Maybe magic failed the audition.

Psychic TV are, of course, eminently competent musicians themselves. Mostly. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the off-centre fulcrum around which the band revolves, is, of course, famously unschooled in muso-technique, which has never stopped him from picking up any instrument he fancies and generating interesting noises thereupon.

Tonight he favours us with an interlude of looped 'n' reverbed violin-squalls, but in the main he's the affable master of ceremonies, more shaman than mere frontman. He leads the band headlong into the pschedelic jungle, while letting rip with an impassioned vocal throughout. For all their tangents and weirdness, Psychic TV are a bold, barreling rock band, and for all his un-musicianship, Genesis has exactly the right presence - and exactly the right primitive holler of a voice - to create the visceral rush that is what rock music should be all about.

Psychic TVBack-projections flicker as the Psychic TV rhythm machine bumps and grinds: 'Higher And Higher' builds itself beat by staccato beat into a teetering tower of sound; 'Hookah Chalice' - when it's not being deconstructed to within an inch of its life by a P-Orridge violin solo - is a gloriously manic sprint.

But it's not all full-tilt rockers, although Pschic TV in full cry do full-tilt better than anyone. There's light and shade in the show, too. 'The Alien Brain' is a spooky drift, while 'New York Story', a love song to the late Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, has Gen in tears by the end of the song, and his are not the only damp eyes in the house.

By way of a tribute to Syd Barrett - and also to see if his ghost can be raised, at this venue where he once played - the band essay a version of Syd's 'No Good Trying', with Gen recalling the days when he used to hitch-hike down from Birmingham to see the Floyd at the old, pre-gentrification Tabernacle. Someone in the crowd makes a crack about his age: 'I don't care about my age - I'm sixty next year,' comes the riposte. 'My age has never been a secret, just the way I keep beautiful has.'

But time is nevertheless a-pressing, and the curfew looms. All-night happenings don't happen at the new, respectable, Tabernacle. The band are told they've got four minutes left. There's time for just one more song - and, gleefully contrary to the last, Pschic TV elect to play a vastly extended version of the Velvet Underground's 'Foggy Notion', a song that's almost become a Psychic TV standard, so completely has it been assimilated into the PTV canon.

Morrison Edley, on drums, sets up the beat; on guitar, David Max kick-starts the riff. Four minutes? Ah, yes, and the rest. The band just keep the song going, David Max throwing in a guitar solo that just doesn't stop - to the point where his bandmates start exchanging 'What the fuck?' expressions as it keeps going, and going, and going.  Naturally, there's a stage invasion, during which a mad-eyed girl and a leatherclad bloke - apparently completely unknown to each other - begin acting out the argument between Candy and Andy in the song. At least, I think they're acting. It looks like quite a convincing fight at times. 

Psychic TVEventually, with a crash of drums, it's all over. The stage-fight subsides; Psychic TV return us to our normal transmissions.

That was, if we're to believe Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, who should know, the last Psychic TV gig in the UK. Gen has decided to retire from the rock 'n' roll touring lifestyle. Maybe he'll relent at some point - tonight, he looked far too much in his element on stage to simply walk away from the experience for ever.

But even if Pschic TV never do return, we can console ourselves with the thought that something, somehow, came full circle in the Tabernacle tonight.

 


Psychic TV: MySpace | Website

Piano Magic: Website | MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find Psychic TV by name here.

 
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