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Peggy Sue + Eyes & No Eyes – Broadcast, Glasgow 10/04/14

Peggy Sue + Eyes & No Eyes – Broadcast, Glasgow 10/04/14

11 April 2014, 13:00 | Written by Andrew Hannah

I enter Broadcast’s dark basement right at the beginning of Eyes & No Eyes’ set; I’m completely new to the Brighton four-piece of drums, guitar, bass and cello and as they begin I’m first put in mind of The Dirty Three, then the orchestral punk of Dischord’s Smart Went Crazy, before the band finally settles into a kind of structured post-punk meets folk sound, a little like Do Make Say Think with vocals perhaps. At any rate, guitarist and singer Tristram Bawtree is in possession of a lovely voice and excellent, skeletal guitar lines (which are beefed up by willingness to experiment – and hunch over pedals – on the part of all four members) on a handful of songs that really do point to a promising future.

I’m going to talk about Peggy Sue’s astonishing cover of “Hit The Road Jack” for a bit. Why? Well aside from it being the hottest damn thing I’ve seen in a long time, it also serves as a way into understanding the band, how Rosa Slade and Katy Young work as vocalists and the importance of voice in the literal sense (the band told this publication about exploring traditional backing vocals for latest album Choir of Echoes in a recent interview) but also in a personal sense.

It’s an a cappella version, with Slade and Young taking on the Ray Charles and Margie Hendricks roles but transforming it from its comic roots to something more serious, dark and empowering. As the vocalists trade verses, they also make use of loops so by the end they’re singing over a choir of Peggy Sues. But it’s not overpowering; Slade and, in particular, Young have an incredible clarity of tone and power in their voices that draws from folk, blues and gospel and while some critics say the band don’t always get that power on record, I disagree. It’s just that the intensity increases when it comes to playing live. I could go on about “Hit The Road Jack” for the rest of this review but I’ll refrain…but if you can find a recording of it anywhere, I urge you to listen.

So, elsewhere we get dips back into the back catalogue with a stirring version of “Yo Mama”, from 2010 debut Fossils and Other Phantoms, and a brilliant scattershot reading of “Funeral Beat” powered by excellent drumming from Olly Joyce. We also get a melody-heavy “Idle” which despite the blues gloom shows just how relaxed Peggy Sue has become on Choir of Echoes – looking at Slade and Young onstage it appears so effortless and they also seem very happy to be playing these songs tonight.

Their well-placed confidence in the quality of the new record shows in the closing trio of “Two Shots” (a love song about tonsillitis, we’re told), “The Error of Your Ways” and “Figure of Eight”; expansive, almost joyful (and enhanced by trumpet playing courtesy of Marcus from Eyes & No Eyes) Peggy Sue has left behind the early categorisation of “neo-folk” and some of the contemporaries they were thrown in with around the time they still had the “and the Pirates” name extension to become, pure and simply, a rather brilliant British guitar band. Well, a British guitar band with a pair of vocalists that are as good as any singers you’d care to name…and that’s a powerful combination to have.

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