The Purcell Room provides an intimate and intriguing setting for this evening’s addition to what is surely the greatest festival bill ever assembled (if you dig the sort of thing Robert Smith does, which this scribe most certainly is completely on board with). Banked cinema-style seating gives the impression of attending what might turn out to be the most erudite of university lectures. A note, too, for the incredible staff at the Southbank Centre. As a wheelchair user, my gig-going experiences vary in their convenience and comfort. Plenty of times have I been stuffed in the back of a room, not able to see anything. On other occasions, a new relationship of rapid intimacy is developed with door staff who very generously agree to carry me up stairs in listed or otherwise-inaccessible buildings.
Mercifully, neither are necessary tonight, as a remarkably helpful team get me to where I need to go - in the front row no less - just in time to experience the hushed expectation of a crowd who are primed and ready for the entrance of pg.lost, fresh from supporting Deftones the night before, in front of a huge audience who came “just because of us” as the between-song banter sheepishly and ironically informs us. The size of crowd and rapture with which the band are greeted give the impression of a cult band, the kind where the questions “Do you know pg.lost?” or “Where you there when they played...?” arise.
Well, last night, we were. A scintillating journey of undulating, atmospheric awe and wonder, assisted by a fantastic audio/visual and light show, carried those present into a new place, beyond the humdrum of the here and now towards new hope and glorious possibility. This was a perfectly-toned set of cinematic post-rock, with plenty of ‘down’ moments, but which was at its best when the band cut loose and allowed themselves to breathe and let the gorgeous beauty of their music to truly shine.
The evening comprised a collection of songs beautifully grouped together to create a vision of joy. pg.lost have an arsenal of the kind of songs that any aficionado of the genre so lazily termed post-rock have been wishing for some years would come to the fore. At times, things are gentle and there is space to breathe. At the height of passion, as on ‘Versus’, the title track of the band’s glorious last album, things are taken to a whole other level.
The band appear lost in the music as they thrash and contort their bodies, feeling every twist and turn of the clever time signature changes and dynamic shifts. All the while, the rapt crowd look on in considered, head-nodding appreciation. Like a group of medical practitioners viewing a particularly complex procedure, we all sit in short-breathed tension, waiting for the glorious release of success, wishing and willing that the four men on the stage will lift us out of our dreary torpor and transport us to a place of peace.
And boy did they manage all of that and more. Who needs vocals when you’ve got so much power and melodic and harmonic instrumental brilliance? Certainly not pg.lost. A glorious surprise. You can count me among the growing list of those who are “in the know” about this fantastic band now. You should be, too.
Meltdown curated by Robert Smith takes place from the 15 to 24 June at London’s Southbank Centre. For more information and tickets, please visit the festival’s official website.