New York Irving Plaza

Next time they come back, it will surely be their name on the ticket instead...

It’s always strange when an opening act outshines the headliners, but that’s exactly what’s happening here tonight. Broadcast’s name isn’t even listed on the tickets for this show, but from the moment they take the stage, it’s clear who the main attraction this evening is.

The five-piece Birmingham band take to the stage in almost complete darkness, only to be revealed, in traditional Irving Plaza fashion, as the screen that blocks the stage rises back up towards the ceiling. Behind them and, in fact, on them, a dazzling visual display begins which will continue throughout the length of their all-too-brief set. Created by two projectors which superimpose contrasting images and film footage over each other, the recurring themes of the media are nature and science, man and machine, synthesis and disparity. Many of the things Broadcast deal with in their own music, then.

The band themselves remain cloaked in shadow for the most part, illuminated mostly by the film playing off their dark clothes. Although singer Trish Keenan stands centre stage, she is clad entirely in black, remaining inconspicuous even in the so-called spotlight. This is obviously about the music – there will be no grandstanding tonight. They begin with ‘Long Was The Year’, the lead track off their recent full-length debut ‘The Noise Made By People’. It’s immediately apparent that any fears that Broadcast’s often minimal sound wouldn’t translate well live are completely unfounded. Keenan’s voice resonates throughout the venue more perfectly than on record, every sound of every instrument rings intoxicatingly true. The haunting sci-fi melodies blend with the constantly shifting visuals and the crowd is quickly captivated.

From there, Broadcast keep the set diverse, lively and consistently changing. Songs from the band’s recent EP, ‘Extended Play Two’ are spotlighted, including the composite track ‘Unchanging Window/Chord Simple’ and the sonically enthralling instrumental ‘Drums On Fire’, which builds fantastically in tempo and intensity as it progresses. ‘Phantom’, which appeared on their ‘Work And Non Work’ compilation, is the most bizarre, and yet also the most engaging song they play all night, a cerebral instrumental track driven by odd bleeps, chirps and wavering synth sounds, that serves as the perfect complement to the more pop influenced material.

The Sea & Cake, meanwhile, who are actually headlining tonight’s show, come off as slow, meandering and generally uninteresting in comparison. If only they had flipped the bill around and let Broadcast play longer. Then again, this is still Broadcast’s first North American tour. Next time they come back, it will surely be their name on the ticket instead, and at the top of the marquee.

Doug Levy