Thursday 8 September 2022

Pale Blue Eyes / Modema - Manchester Retro - 7th September 2022

Pale Blue Eyes brought their highly-acclaimed debut album Souvenirs to the hot and humid basement of Retro Bar in Manchester on Wednesday night for an hour-long set that was rapturously received by a crowd that reveled in the trio's pure joy of playing live music. They were supported by an impressive debut performance by Modema.

This is the first ever live show from Modema, their front woman tells us halfway through a promising half-hour set. Starting with an extended synth / keys led instrumental punctuated by call-and-response harmonies that stretches to around seven minutes they set out their stall immediately. They add guitars and drums as the set progresses, but neither instrument overpowers the subtle delicate nuances of the songs upon which the vocals sit all fragile and vulnerable. The audience stand and listen in silence, even more a rarity these days, but make their thoughts known at the end of each song. They finish as they started with a mysterious haunting song that is all about atmosphere rather than power but which proves the old adage that sometimes less can be more.

It's one that could equally apply to Pale Blue Eyes, one of the most modest and unassuming bands around. Their tools are the simplest - vocals, guitar, bass and drums - and their sound is one that we've heard before many times over the years, but very rarely has it been done with such beauty, clarity and an irresistible charm that disarms you and has you under its spell before you know it. They clearly love what they're doing too and that transmits itself and deepens the intoxicating sensation that watching them perform creates.

The set draws heavily, as you'd expect, from Souvenirs with six of the nine songs played from the record.  Album opener Globe is a particular highlight and they finish on the album's final track Chelsea followed by lead single, all seven minutes plus of Dr Pong, where they let loose a little more without losing any of the intuitive groove and bond that's apparent between the three of them. Debut single Motionless opens the set and the other two songs - Exits and Daisy - suggest they're a band with more to come.

Aubrey (bass) and Lucy (drums) provide the solid rhythm section that forms the backbone of each of these songs, but they're all very much more than the sum of their constituent parts, a mean and rare trick that few pull off. Even when Matt's mic gives out at the start of TV Flicker they continue on regardless, joking that we got a special version.

There's no showy solos, attempts to look or sound cool or flash stage moves here; they're not needed and would detract from the effect of the music. With Pale Blue Eyes that is the driving force behind everything they do - a band that plays music for the simple reason that they love doing it and that more than anything else shines through when you can see the whites of their eyes. And that makes for a gloriously gently uplifting evening that leaves you feeling warm inside.

Pale Blue Eyes played Motionless, Star Vehicle, Globe, Exits, TV Flicker, Under Northern Sky, Daisy, Chelsea and Dr Pong.

They are on Facebook and Twitter. They play London Paper Dress Vintage (September 8), Bristol Crofter's Rights (9) and London Lexington (February 17).

Modema don't appear to have any socials at present, but they play their second ever gig on Friday night at the Castle Hotel supporting Splint.


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