Live Review: Public Service Broadcasting – Manchester


Public Service Broadcasting

Manchester Academy 16th October 2017

Words: Rebecca Worthington

Support band Palace, with their distinctive blues sound, have long been championed by Popped Music. The London four-piece played songs from their stunning debut album, So Long Forever, released at the end of last year. Amongst these were the album’s title track with descending guitar hooks reminiscent of MaccabeesGiven to the Wild and It’s Over which progresses through the emotional stages of a breakup, in which repeated anguished cries of It’s Over evolve into the accepting dreamy falsetto of frontman Leo Wyndham. The set concluded with Bitter, a mix of candid lyricism and layered atmospheric guitars, epitomising how Palace continue to capture hearts nationwide.

With lights hanging from the ceiling, dimly illuminating the venue, and two winding wheels either side of stage, the scene was set at Manchester Academy for Public Service Broadcasting on their Every Valley Tour. The art rock trio from London weave samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material into beautifully crafted guitar-laden electronica. This latest album is no different, chronicling the rise and fall of the mining industry in the Welsh Valleys.

On walked charming frontman J Willgoose Esq. delicately playing the opening chords of the album’s title track before the powerful voice of Richard Burton described “the arrogant strut of the lords of the coalface.” Drummer, Wrigglesworth, and multi-instrumentalist, JFAbraham, chimed in with the trumpeters adding the musical layers to this dramatic show opener.

The theatrics continued with the pounding drums and downwards pitch gliding of the trumpets in The Pit, portraying the bleak, dangerous conditions faced by the coal miners and giving a sense of the turmoil that was to be caused “Drilling out from their native rock, the foundations of the future” over emotive strings. Willgoose acknowledged the crowd “Thank you very much… Manchester… Academy!” making use of his gameshow host voice over samples for the first time. His quintessentially English stage attire, comprised of tweed suit, bowtie and thick-rimmed glasses, almost made him look like a game show host! “We finally decided to spend some of our tour budget on a microphone.” He joked.

As emphasised in the next track Theme from PSB, this is a band on a Reithian quest to ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ audiences around the globe. And one dedicated to the cause. Their second album The Race for Space highlights milestones in space exploration. The story of the first spacewalk was told during the expeditionary track E.V.A, which features an assortment of retro-game synths, banjos and violins and a quiet piano section depicting the weightless atmosphere experienced by Alexey Leonov stepping out into space. Similarly, suspenseful track The Other Side, follows the communications between mission control and Apollo 8 on its orbit of the moon. When voice contact was received from the spacecraft, the music exploded victoriously, and the crowd cheered in celebration. This mission paved the way for the moon landing, the topic of Go! Which had the whole crowd throwing they arms into their air to the go/no go decision. It was a surreal atmosphere.

A savagely ironic recruitment ad sings “Come on be a miner. There’s money, lots of money and security”, marking the beginning of People Will Always Need Coal. Footage of young aspiring coal miners beamed from the projectors, alongside an evocative score.

A personal highlight of the night was They Gave Me a Lamp, a poignant and moving piece about the importance of women’s support groups. Willgoose emphasised the collaborate nature of the album. Special thanks was given to the South Wales Miners’ Library, where most of audio and film footage was found for the album, and instrumental trio Haiku Salut, who joined the sample wizards onstage. On either side of this stand-out performance was Krautrock-crowd-pleaser Spitfire and All Out, with images of protests, depicting the anger and despair felt at the closure of the mines, accompanying the striking heavy-metal guitars. The band certainly were taking us on an emotional rollercoaster. “Wow, you know it’s a Monday, right?” Willgoose gasped.

During the encore, the band showed off their groovy choreography together with two dancing space men, for the jazz-fusion space journey of Yuri Gagarin. The evening came to a magnificent close with the uplifting, triumphal track Everest, completing the goosebump worthy, inspiring and gripping performance.

Public Service Broadcasting have the instruments to teach, illuminate and even inspire. And that night they achieved this in the most spectacular way.

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