I last saw Public Service Broadcasting three years ago, here in the Usher Hall, opening for the Kaiser Chiefs.  As much as I enjoyed their set, I struggled to imagine how they might sustain their mix of electronics and newsreel audio and video samples over any more than forty five minutes without running out of steam.  Tonight, I found out.

That mix of sound and video sampling still lies very much at the heart of what the band do – they tip a tacit nod to that by playing Bowie’s Sound And Vision In it’s entirety as their walk on music – but the band has grown in confidence and ambition to produce an outstanding evening’s entertainment that takes the audience from the depths of the Welsh coalfields, upwards to the summit of Everest and onwards into space.

PSB open with a trio of songs from their latest album Every Valley.  Shrouded in darkness, the title track sets the scene as lights in the style of miners’ Davey lamps descend from the overhead gantry.  It’s a simple effect but a moving one.  The Pit echos the closed-in conditions at the coalface; guitarist J Willgoose spins out plangent guitar lines underscored by mechanical drumming from band mates Wrigglesworth and JF Abraham and darkly brooding horns from the three-piece brass section.  The dark irony of People Will Always Need Coal paints a bright future for the mining industry and secure employment for its workforce but the baleful glow from the Davey lamps tells a different story.

Taking a break from the Every Valley material, Theme From PSB kicks up the energy levels.  Taking charge of the visuals on the screens behind the band, Mr. B mixes stock footage and images with live performance from the band themselves.  The Now Generation and, particularly, Night Mail really shine in their live incarnations and ramp up the pace which continues on into a couple of tracks from the Race For Space album. Progress and They Gave Me A Lamp take us back to Every Valley, the visuals and spoken word samples almost tangibly charging the atmosphere in the hall.

ROYGBIV, Sputnik and The Other Side take us to the climax of Go!, possibly the only song to turn a NASA mission control checklist into a singalong anthem.

The first encore, a fiercely angry All Out seals the deal on a fabulous gig as far as I am concerned but follow ups Gagarin, featuring a pair of cavorting cosmonauts,  and Everest are welcome additions and top off a terrific night.

Setlist

Every Valley

The Pit

People Will Always Need Coal

Theme From PSB

The Now Generation

Night Mail

Korolev

Valentina

Progress

They Gave Me a Lamp

ROYGBIV

Spitfire

The Other Side

Go!

All Out

Gagarin

Everest

John Scott

 

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