06 June, 2017

[GIG REVIEW] Public Service Broadcasting @ Electric Ballroom, London, 31st May 2017

Artists that use samples heavily in their music tend to have a number of strengths. A degree of light-heartedness often purvey the sound, resulting in 'fun' music - perfect for sunny days, commonly mixed in with incredibly danceable rhythms. Think The Avalanches, classic hip-hop, Paul Hardcastle, or the Baz Lurhmann track-cum-self-help-guide 'Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen'. Here, sound reigns supreme whilst emotional lyrical content takes a back seat, a juxtaposition to the general tendency of 'popular music'.

Public Service Broadcasting buck this trend, and prove so emphatically with a one-off show at Camden's Electric Ballroom.
Photo Credit: Nigel Kinnings


The emotional resonance offered by the spoken word samples on which PSBs alternative-rock is built is stark. This can partially be explained by the fact that each album is based around a consistent theme - be it debut 'Inform - Educate - Entertain''s rummage through the archives of early BBC broadcasts, the gripping NASA/Sputnik audio transmissions on 'The Race For Space', or the gentle recordings exploring the mining industry in South Wales and the personalities and politics thereof (the subject of forthcoming third LP 'Every Valley'). Every track tells a story with all the suspense and sentiment of tale worth telling.

With regards to the actual  show, used to warm-up for the album-cycle surrounding their imminent release, a couple of technical gremlins aside the trio, joined here by an extra keyboardist and 3-piece brass band, are imperious throughout.

Opening with a couple of new tracks might've made a few audience members hoping for a 'greatest hits' set wary, but this proves a non-issue - firstly because the quality of the new tracks on show is high, and secondly as there's actually a very generous balance between all material available to them. Evidence of this is in the third track up, first album highlight 'Night Mail'. 'Theme from PSB' follows, as a kind of belated introduction, after which both band and crowd are entirely relaxed into the atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinnings


The best moment of the set comes around two-thirds of the way in, when 'The Other Side' and 'Go!' are played back to back. The former offers genuinely epic sustain and release the likes of which Coldplay and Snow Patrol aim towards with their tepid faux-emotion. PSB achieve this by telling the legitimately thrilling story of Apollo 8 passing behind the moon and outside of communication range of Earth. 'Go!' on the other hand inspires a louder sing-a-long than you'd ever expect for a band that doesn't actually have any vocals.

The main set is closed out with their two 'pop' numbers,  the trumpet and funk laced 'Gagarin', and breakthrough track the bouncy 'Spitfire' ("here's a song about a plane" quips frontman, J. Willgoose, esq.). The band then leave the stage briefly, before coming back to wrap-up a successful first run-out of their new production with new track, the vicious 'All Out', and perennial set-closer and goosebump inspirer 'Everest'.

Pre-order new album 'Every Valley' here