see all photos from this concert here

Psychic TV
Living With Eating Disorders
Forum, London
Saturday October 9 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

As Genesis P-Orridge himself would have it, we are present tonight at ‘thee third couming ov Psychic TV’. Or, if you’d like that in plain English, Psychic TV are back, with a new line-up and an extensive tour (that’s ‘de-tour’, in P-Orridge-speak) which takes in everywhere from Oslo to Moscow, Zagreb to Warsaw. This London show is a whistlestop one-off: yesterday the band were in Porto, Portugal. Tomorrow they’ll be in Athens, Greece. Hmmm. That’s an interesting travel itinerary. Maybe Genesis was right to call this escapade a ‘de-tour’ after all.

Unusually for a Forum gig, the main floor area directly in front of the stage has been tricked out with chairs and tables, possibly to give the gig an artistic pavement-cafe-in Paris feel, but more likely to fill up the space a bit and disguise the fact that the crowd isn’t exactly huge tonight. This gig was not, as far as I can tell, advertised widely (if I hadn’t glanced at the Living With Eating Disorders website I would never have known it was taking place), so the venue remains fairly empty throughout the evening. This means that Living With Eating Disorders themselves, unceremoniously punted on stage mere minutes after doors-open, have to contend with a vast empty space in front of them, with a relatively small bunch of fans and curious onlookers clustered right down the front.  It can’t be easy for the band, throwing their music out into the void with hardly enough of a crowd to generate any real reaction, but the out-front sound, barrelling out of the Forum’s massive PA, is good, and little by little Living With Eating Disorders claw and caterwaul their way into the audience’s faces. Noisy songs like ‘Horsemilk’ and ‘Demon In The Wheels’  come over well; it’s the quieter numbers that tend to fade away somewhat as the emptiness of the venue gains the upper hand. In the end, the band pull off a victory on points under distinctly unfavourable circumstances.

Snowpony seem interesting at first, but fade into ordinariness as their set unfolds. Maybe it’s unfair of me to come down on the band, since, like Living With Eating Disorders, they have to contend with the big venue/small crowd non-atmosphere. But even after cutting them some slack because of this, Snowpony still don’t do it for me. They play a rather generic brand of mid-nineties indie which isn’t *bad*, you understand: it’s just that anyone who has a passing familiarity with the likes of, say, The Cranberries will find no surprises in this music. At first, it sounds cool, but as the set continues I realise that what I’m hearing is essentially respectable and competent almost-alternative rock, without anything particularly distinctive or attention-grabbing about it. The vocals simply hang in the air, without any real force or point, while the band seem self-absorbed, barely registering the presence of the audience at all. The guitarists keep their heads down while the singer does odd little dances whenever she’s away from the mic, grooving away as if she’s in her own world. Half way through the set, she takes off her bright red wig to reveal her real, and entirely ordinary, brown hair beneath. That’s a good enough metaphor for the band as a whole, as it happens. Early hints at something quirky and individual, shading into just-another-indie-band mundanity.

The lights go down. A large screen at the back of the stage flickers into life: random images, shapes and fuzziness. Hmmm. This looks suspiciously like Art. Must be time for Psychic TV, then. Weirdness ahoy. Ah, you could never mistake Psychic TV for just another indie band. Although, having said that, once you get beyond all the grandstanding, posturing and plain old kerfuffle about art and philosophy and symbolism with which Genesis P-Orridge has contrived to surround his band, this particular incarnation of Psychic TV turns out to be a perfectly accessible - and actually rather good - mash-up of post-punky pop and sixties-influenced garage psychedelia.  The musicians, a motley assortment of alternotypes in black, like a convention of Velvet Underground fans let out to play, carry themselves with a confident swagger, but of course it’s the man in the middle who gets all the attention. Genesis P-Orridge himself, with his housewife superstar hairstyle and High Street bling (he looks like the mother of Goldie Lookin’ Chain) presides over the Psychic TV experience with ever so slightly camp good humour. It’s a greatest hits set (or ‘unclean verse-ions ov thee hyperdelic hits’ in P-Orridge language), and I’m struck by how many downright catchy and cool songs Psychic TV have done in their time. If it wasn’t for all the weirdo baggage I dare say Psychic TV could’ve scored quite a few hits over the years, somewhere in the Jesus and Mary Chain-ish musical area. As it is, the only brush with the charts Psychic TV have ever experienced came with their lilting, and genuinely affecting, tribute to Brian Jones, ‘Godstar’. That song appears in the set tonight, declaimed almost defiantly as if it’s an anthem for all who are misunderstood. We also get the shake and rattle of ‘Roman P.’, the mutant rockabilly of ‘Riot In Thee Eye Ov Skye’, and the crazed psychedelic lecture of ‘Please Us Jesus’. There’s even get a new song, which turns out to be ‘How Do You Deal?’, a song I last heard performed as a new number by the temporarily reformed Throbbing Gristle. But for my money the highlight of the set is a gleeful 100mph dash through ‘Soul Eater’, a glorious, pell-mell showstopper of a tune, built around that push-and-shove glam-rock guitar riff that always, absurdly, brings Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ to my mind. Genesis yells out the chorus to the highest seats in the circle: ‘Are you free? Really free? Reallyreallyreallyreally really FREE?’. The fact that there aren’t actually any people in those seats appears to dishearten him not one jot. The crowd makes up for its lack of numbers by sheer enthusiasm - Genesis clearly can do no wrong tonight. Almost offhand, he makes a reference to his new transgendered persona - ‘I used to be a man.  Now I’m...everything!’ - and seems quite moved by the cheer he gets in response. He treats us to some of his ‘noise bass’ playing, wrenching his trademark cacophony out of four long-suffering strings with a beer bottle, all the while, endearingly, paying careful attention to where he’s putting his fingers on the fretboard. Genesis P-Orridge might be a noisemaker rather than a musician, but nobody can deny that he always makes sure that his noise is in tune. It’s a great performance, all two hours of it, and even as the clock ticks towards last train time, nobody even thinks of leaving. Finally, at midnight - ‘That’s the trouble with England,’ remarks Gen - ‘Everything has to stop at midnight!’ - it’s all over. A vintage show, which should’ve been rammed to the rafters. Maybe, next time Genesis and his ever-shifting crew of collaborators rolls into town, they’ll get the packed and seething crowd they deserve. In these troubled times, we need all the deviants we can get, and they don’t come any groovier than Genesis P-Orridge.

see all photos from this concert here

The latest on Psychic TV and assorted other projects can be found on Genesis P-Orridge’s site:


Living With Eating Disorders:

A new, and very good, Living With Eating Disorders fan site (more photos from this gig here):

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: