PALE BLUE EYES + CIEL – PATTERNS, BRIGHTON 19.11.23
Pale Blue Eyes concluded their 15-date UK tour here in Brighton, when they appeared this evening at a packed out Patterns venue on Marine Parade. It certainly wasn’t a peaceful Sunday night in for a quartet from Brighton & Hove News as we attended the gig mob-handed, as such was the anticipation for tonight’s event.
Pale Blue Eyes have certainly broken down any illusions of a North-South divide in the fact that their likeable frontman, vocalist and Fender Jaguar guitarist Matthew Board originates from Totnes in Devon, whereas his wife, drummer Lucy Broad hails from Sheffield. Cementing the band is Aubrey Simpson on Squier Precision bass and also for live work they morph into a quartet with the addition of John Gooding on Korg synth, tambourine, shaker and second guitar.
The band’s latest platter ‘This House’ (which you can grab HERE) dropped on 1st September and the house pictured on the front cover of the new LP is actually Matthew’s childhood home, which is located just outside the aforementioned Totnes. It was a place where happiness, music and memories were everything. For me, the album is an absolute belter and hasn’t really wandered very far from my turntable since its release. The same can also be said of their debut long-player ‘Souvenirs’, (located HERE) which was released in September 2022. Thus far the Pale Blue Eyes released material is simply putting it, won-der-ful!
I’ve had the pleasure of previously having seen the band perform live on a few occasions and it’s a joy to watch them, as it’s evident that they honestly enjoy what they are doing. With beaming smiles and constant head bobbing, mainly from Aubrey and John, the love that flows off of the stage, wraps itself around their audiences and the overall joy is shared by everyone present. This again happened tonight in Patterns. With liquid refreshments purchased we secure our positions on the crowd barrier and await the Brighton based support act to grace us with their presence, more on them very shortly. After a live music interlude of exactly half an hour (from 8:17pm to 8:47pm), Pale Blue Eyes grace us with their presence.
Stage right (our left) is John, who I believe is returning to college after this tour in order to catch up on his studies. I am hopeful of his return for the next tour (whenever that will be) as for me, he is an integral part of the act, especially as we get his enthusiasm behind the Korg keyboard. On John’s left and centre front is lead vocalist Matthew, and behind his left shoulder is Lucy sitting at her drumkit, and completing the lineup is Aubrey who is stationed stage left (our right) and he is immediately in front of me. At 8:47pm they begin their 59 minute dozen song set with ‘Takes Me Over’, the first of seven selections from the new ‘This House’ album, which incidentally has eleven tracks on it, so we are served a good two-thirds of the platter this evening. This track bopped merrily along as did the band, the punters and myself.
With the first number under their belts, I glanced around the room behind me and was pleasantly surprised to note that the venue appeared to be heading towards full capacity. Clearly word’s getting out about these rising stars. Tune two was the first of a trio of numbers from last year’s ‘Souvenirs’ album, this being ‘TV Flicker’, which had previously been released as a single back in November 2021. We are all hooked from the first few lines: “Running away with itself; Mind is running; Running away with itself; True reflection; TV Flicker; REM…”. Before we realise it, ‘Spaces’ from the new LP is being served to us and it’s another belter! The Stereolab sounding ‘Simmering’ is selection four and this highlights their mix of synthpop meets psych very well indeed. Pale Blue Eyes somehow always seem to perfectly meld these two genres together and come up with their own take on things. Sometimes it’s more psych like this one, and sometimes it’s entrenched in synthpop, just like the next tune, January 2023 single ‘More’, which is also on the new LP. This more than any other of their tracks reminds me of the criminally underrated former Sussex based Kraftwerk-esque quartet of Mirrors. Do yourself a favour and check out their Skint Records released album ‘Lights And Offerings’ which although was released back in 2011, it still remained my favourite album of that whole decade!
Matthew then bigged up their sound engineer who was actually positioned to the rear of the crowd as opposed to being sat behind the tiny caged booth to the end of the venue. After which Matthew highlighted that John was actually sneaking a sip of Bailey’s at this midway point in the set. Clearly this gave him all the energy he needed as he and his chums psyched out with ‘Heating’s On’ (from ‘This House’) and also the sole unreleased track, which is titled ‘Daisy’. John was also on tambourine and shakers as well as keys by now. A couple from last year’s ‘Souvenirs’ album followed in the form of ‘Dr Pong’ and ‘Chelsea’. With these there start’s a moody synth intro which is slower and reminds me of Tears For Fears ‘Mad World’ and from there the quartet start seriously psyching out until we arrive embedded firmly in The Horrors territory. The keys are very noticeable during this section and all the better for having them performed live as opposed merely on a backing tape.
Their 2021 single ‘Motionless’ was given an airing next and was followed by a couple from the recent ‘This House’ album, in the form of ‘Our History’ and ‘Sister’. These once again proved to be yet another epic finale from the band. I must confess that by now I had seriously failed to take any further notes as I was so into the music and merrily bopping away without a care in the world, that at that moment, nothing else really mattered. Sorry guys, but it was inevitable that I was going to let my hair down with Pale Blue Eyes. It always happens with their sets and tonight every blood vessel in my body and every ounce of sweat was filled with the sounds of Pale Blue Eyes. They were stupendous and possibly contenders for the performance of the whole year for me! My elation was curtailed at 9:46pm and I floated back to the car with my head in the clouds!
Pale Blue Eyes:
Matthew Board – lead vocals, guitar,
Lucy Board – drums
Aubrey Simpson – bass
John Gooding – synths, tambourine, shakers, guitar
Pale Blue Eyes setlist:
‘Takes Me Over’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
‘TV Flicker’ (from 2022 ‘Souvenirs’ album)
‘Spaces’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
‘Simmering’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
‘More’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
‘Heating’s On’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
‘Dr Pong’ (from 2022 ‘Souvenirs’ album)
‘Chelsea’ (from 2022 ‘Souvenirs’ album)
‘Motionless’ (from 2021 ‘Motionless’ / ‘Chelsea’ single)
‘Our History’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
‘Sister’ (from 2023 ‘This House’ album)
Winding the clock back almost two hours we arrive at the point where the tour support band takes to the stage. The trio of Michele Hindriks (lead vocals, bass), Jorge Bela Jimenez (guitar) and Tim Spencer (drums and drumpads) are very well known to us as they collectively are Brighton based Ciel. In fact, we covered their first ever full band UK concert a number of years back, when band originator Michele decided to expand her solo act that she had created back at home in The Netherlands and appeared at The Prince Albert with her first temporary bandmates. The date of that concert was 19th December 2018 and you can read the review HERE.
Nearly five years on from that debut performance, the band has solidified in its ranks and the initial frailties have been ironed out and they have made many friends along the way as well as being flagged and played by several key players in the world of radio, and they are also on the press radar. Thus the polished article takes to the stage at 7:49pm a few days prior to the official launch of their ‘Make It Better’ / ‘Rather Be Alone’ double EP‘ which drops on on Friday, but they have early copies available tonight. My colleague Peter duly makes his purchase for said 12” platter.
Michele greets us and tells us that they have been on tour since September and this hometown gig is their last of the year and they are looking forward to sleeping in their own beds. The stage was full of dry ice to set the scene, in fact there was so much that on entry it was wafting up the corridor and out of the entrance. I was a tad worried that our photographers may be hindered by the fog, silly me, shouldn’t have worried, with experts on the case. Michele was out centre front and virtually touching the barrier, which was encouraging, on her right (our left) was Spanish guitarist Jorge and to the rear as you would expect was drummer Tim. We were to receive nine self-penned compositions over a period of 28 minutes, concluding at 8:17pm.
They kicked off with ‘Back To The Feeling’ (from last year’s ‘Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark’ EP) which certainly went down rather well with the punters. Immediately Michele said “Thank you so much, cheers!” and they were off again, this time with their ‘Seeking’ single, with its “oooh oooh” vocals. Even by this point I knew the band had improved further since my last encounter with them which was at The Komedia. Clearly the continual touring and practice has done Ciel the world of good and they are more polished, with Michele’s vocal delivery being stronger. Michele then introduces a “new one” which is the first of four to be found on the brand new release. This tune being ‘Circles’ and benefitted from Michele’s bass riff which reminded me of New Order. I particularly enjoyed her “Hey you” shout in this track. ‘Somebody’ was their next choice and was hot-heeled by post punk ditty ‘Make It Better’ which segued straight into the oldest selection, 2017’s ‘Naked’, which had the keys on backing track. The vibe of this tune was a mixture of The Cure’s ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ meets Martha & The Muffins ‘Echo Beach’ and was the choice track of the set thus far for me.
The slower paced ‘Baby Don’t You Know’ (from the new release) had more mystery keyboards and was followed by a plug by Michele of the new double EP. After which they played ‘Talk’ and then signed off with last year’s ‘Fine Everything’ single (and set highlight) and indeed everything was fine regarding this performance. In fact it was so fine, that of all the times I’ve seen them live over the past five years, this was their best performance! Michele finished off by saying “Hope to see you in February!”. Anyone who had accepted the Ciel flyer on entry this evening would have already known that this forthcoming concert will be taking place up at The Hope & Ruin courtesy of promoters Love Thy Neighbour and will be happening on Wednesday 21st February, so see you there! Purchase your tickets HERE.
Michele Hindriks – lead vocals, bass
Jorge Bela Jimenez – guitar
Tim Spencer – drums, drumpads
‘Back To The Feeling’ (from 2022 ‘Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark’ EP)
‘Seeking’ (a 2022 AA Sessions, CIEL single)
‘Circles’ (from 2023 ‘Make It Better’ / ‘Rather Be Alone’ Double EP)
‘Somebody’ (from 2023 ‘Make It Better’ / ‘Rather Be Alone’ Double EP)
‘Make It Better’ (from 2023 ‘Make It Better’ / ‘Rather Be Alone’ Double EP)
‘Naked’ (from 2017 ‘Anxiety’ EP)
‘Baby Don’t You Know’ (from 2022 ‘Not In The Sun, Nor In The Dark’ EP)
‘Talk’ (from 2023 ‘Make It Better’ / ‘Rather Be Alone’ Double EP)
‘Fine Everything’ (a 2022 single)