The strut says it all. Shaun Powell sashays onto the stage with a sold-out crowd in front; and fronts them out. Gyrating to the malevolent beat of Iggy’s Nightclubbing it is a statement of intent. I am here to entertain you, but it will be done on my terms. It’s Phase One, Liverpool and the launch of the highly anticipated Performance Space Number One, which Psycho Comedy intend to deliver from start to finish. Can they match the full album’s magnificent mayhem they hammered onto vinyl? Fuck, yeah… and the rest. Tonight is a triumph, a celebration and a confirmation that everything you suspected about this band is entirely true. They are immense.
The rest of the band come out and don their weapon of choice. Connor Duff pumps his fist and the descending intro into the self-aggrandising Psycho Comedy assaults the baying hordes. One minute in, at the point where Powell’s vocals drop out and Matthew Thomas Smith takes over, the volume cranks up to a rib cage shattering thrill and it stays there until they raucously exit the stage an hour later. It is a note perfect beginning to the evening. Powell is at his ranting best, assailing the crowd with words before doing the same with music via the 100mph psychobilly, garage rock of First Cousin Once Removed. The insouciant, sarcastic drawl and clatter of We Adore You (like a converse Manics You Love Us on Mogadon – more drug references later kids) sees the first breakout of something resembling a mosh. Powell asks for more vocals explaining “I’m not a fucking Kopite”. The victims of his ire in the crowd respond with “top of the league” which in turn is met with the dead eyed, tongue in cheek and frankly hilarious savagery of “Shut the fuck up you horrible bunch of bastards”.
Matthew Thomas Smith returns for the starry Scouse soup delivered Island and then, as is his wont, gets off immediately. The full surrender of a ‘primarily partisan/containing a few virgins’ crowd is complete with the sensational strum und drang of Standin’, which tonight mosies on down like a kerb-crawling motherfucker. It is also the moment to fully appreciate that Psycho Comedy are a sum of their parts. Shaun Powell takes centre stage naturally and effortlessly; you get the impression that what you see up there is exactly how he is when doing the weekly shop, a Tasmanian devil of energy overload. His moves are an utterly unique Mick Jagger/Max Wall hybrid and he is the captivating eye of the Psycho Comedy storm, an inherent aspect of the inspired lunacy that is bouncing around the stage right now. Meanwhile, Lydia McGhee on rhythm, resplendent in a devilish red suit just about out-satorials Conor Duff on bass as the two of them box off the right-hand side of the stage concocting coruscating sounds with a cool swagger. Back centre is Jack Williams; the latest in a long line of brilliant Liverpool drummers (Chris Sharrock, Iain Templeton, Phil Murphy) whose dextrous synchronicity is epitomised in soft jazz hand strokes or violent battering brutality – think Animal from the Muppets. The left-hand side sees Jack Thompson on lead guitar, and it is he who is responsible for the warped crystallised interjections that beautifully puncture the dense wall of noise created by the others. The brilliance is topped off with the inspired interjections from Matthew Thomas Smith, poetic patter that further elevates the lyrical content of Psycho Comedy making them a quite different proposition to any band currently out there. They really are something else and the second half of tonight’s performance proves it.
The Stones/Duane Eddy riff that introduces I’m Numb sees Phase One bouncing to the instant catch of the irresistible chorus that takes the piss out of the too cool for school drug-takers, Powell doing for them what Jello Biafra did for the middle classes on Holiday in Cambodia. The arty Sleepwalking, very much the cravat carrying Matthew Thomas Smith’s baby, throbs along on a grizzly undercurrent of warped majesty. Powell introduces poppy single sing a long Pick Me Up which does exactly what it says on the tin as the middle of Phase One bounces once more before the misleading steady and soft opening bars of The Hangman morph into a speed fuelled military parade of malevolence. Shaun’s spoken word The Theatre Came Crashing Down leads us into another of tonight’s many highlights, Performance Space Number One with Jack Thompson’s exotic Eastern guitar lines stabbing through the riotous atmosphere on stage and in the crowd. The faultlessly frantic entertainment meets an unnatural lull when Lydia’s leads can’t quite cope with the output of brilliance and short out. On hearing some male voices in the crowd Shaun sniggers “There’s a lot of fellas in tonight. Have you all got your goosing shoes on?” Eventually service is resumed with I Am the Silver Screen with Smith once more bellowing verse over the top of the elegant chaos beneath. The album and tonight’s closer is utterly suitable because Psycho Comedy have proven tonight that they are indeed the One. As something of an encore, they chuck in a magnificent Michigan State for good measure.
Something happened here tonight and everyone in attendance knew exactly what it was, Mr Jones. The flailing, wailing and railing banshee that is Shaun Powell knows it, and he knows that you know it too. If there is any justice in the world Psycho Comedy are the next big thing. What is needed now is for the rest of the UK to be given an opportunity to fall under their spell. They undoubtedly will, because for all the anarchic brilliance that makes up the Psycho Comedy live experience (and what an experience it is!), at its heart is a professional twelve-legged behemoth that has waited until it is absolutely ready to conquer the country, and with U.S. dates already delivered, quite possibly the world.
Perhaps it was right?
It most definitely is.