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This review first appeared in The Fly on 29/11

It’s 7pm, and we’re in Heaven. It’s very quiet, which makes sense, because main act Clock Opera isn’t on for a couple of hours. But it’s also worrying, because the very excellent support act Bright Light Bright Light is on in about 15 minutes and the place is, to be blunt, pretty dead.

Heaven’s big stage, arching brickwork and cavernous feel aren’t the most inviting venue if nobody’s there to fill it yet. That, and BLBL (aka Rod Thomas) isn’t known for being low-key – especially as he’s just finished a 2 week tour with the Scissor Sisters. Demure, Lana Del Gloom-Pop this ain’t.

In fact, BLBL specialises in endorphin-pumped pop – comparisons with Erasure and The Pet Shop Boys seem fair. It’s big, loud but introspective, which has drawn obvious comparisons with Robyn, too. By the time he takes to the stage in an excellent Hawaiian shirt (basically telling November to do one), Thomas unleashes an intense, 30-minute set peppered with big, clever songs from his debut album ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’. And with that, the crowd is suddenly ten times the size.

‘Disco Moment’ and its cathartic chide of ‘you make it so hard to be around’ has a brutal honesty among its pulsating, dizzying disco backdrop. ‘Make Me…’s lyrics are straight to the point, rarely cryptic, and show Rod at his most exposed when he’s swaddled in synth music. It’s a brilliant set, quick, intense and sudden, but BLBL’s impression lasts far longer. This is disco, soul, pop and dance music etched into the DNA of one of the most exciting and overlooked records of the year. And it’s in this cavernous room that it really shines, filling every shadowed corner and, as his name suggests, illuminating all the dark spaces.

Chris Mandle