Public Service Broadcasting

Tonight sees us heading out to the Pyramids in Portsmouth for the rather unassuming band Public Service Broadcasting, although their last album reached No.4 in the charts indicates that these guys have a strong and growing following.

Opening this evening’s proceedings are laid back rockers Palace. Hailing from London the guys have a Summery air to their sound, with tracks like “Vein” having an understated power. Describing themselves as alt-rock/blues they felt more planted in the alt-rock camp, with only a slight nod to blues.

The sound that comes from this four-piece fills the auditorium with ease, and it is so easy to get carried along in their sound. It is cool and calculated, and I would expect the listener to stop and think about what they are hearing. Throughout the rhythms underpin every track, while the guitars carry the vocals along.

The audience was engaged in their performance with only slight murmurings and discussions. With only a 30 minute set you are just getting lost in their sound from the opening “Head Above Water”, all the way through to “Bitter” when their set comes to an end. Throughout their set, they hold the attention of the crowd and get welcome and deserved applause after each track. These guys are certainly worth keeping an eye on.


Palace 12345678

At 21:00 the main attraction take to the stage. After a humorous “Public Service” announcement which describes them as hard-pop, soft-rock the atmosphere in the room has risen – along with asking for consideration for people with cameras and mobile phones (you know the video and sound will be rubbish).

Their last album extended their use of public service broadcasts from the BFI archives, picking out human achievements and key moments (World Wars, Space Travel, and exploration). This album is also their first to feature vocals from their front man as well as the samples. The last album; “Every Valley” explores the decline of the Welsh mining community, and tonight the stage is set up to reflect this.

With a crowd patiently waiting and swelling since Palace left the stage there is an atmosphere of anticipation. The sound of Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” plays over the PA and then 4 assuming blokes walk on stage to applause from the audience; dressed in shirts and ties, while frontman J. Willgoose Esq is sporting a bow tie.

Opening with two tracks from Every Valley, large miners lanterns lower from the roof adding to the atmosphere. Next up is their signature “Theme From PSB” track, much to the audience’s delight. The track “Night Mail” gets the same response as imagery fills the screens to accompany the tracks.

Throughout their set the audience was nodding to the beat, mesmerised by the light show and video screens. The mining theme is present with the miners’ lamps and turning wheels on stage, all tied together with film footage from the collieries. This reviewer has always felt that their music is poignant at least, but as soon as you include the stage show, the screens, the light show, it is all elevated to another level.

Public Service Broadcasting
Public Service Broadcasting 12345678910111213

Next is “A song about a plane”; which draws a cheer as they perform “Spitfire”, as one flies out the screens towards the audience. Interspersing video of themselves onstage with old film footage that they get their samples from.

“Progress” sees the crowd swaying in time. A vocoder-style effect is used to offset the female vocals as they sing out “I Believe In Progress”. The pit lanterns lower as the tempo slows, and animated colliers walk across the screens and are lowered down in cages. A song dedicated to South Wales Libraries who proved invaluable in sourcing material for “They Gave Me A Lamp”. The lanterns flashing on and off.

Distorted guitars signify the start of a driving rhythm; matching a much heavier track in its opening, the discontent and clashes with police shown on the screens. “We went on strike for a job. The right to go out the house in the morning and go to work” echoes across the hall.

We are soon transported into space with “The Other Side” for the flight of Apollo 8. The stage goes dark as Apollo 8 goes round the dark side of the moon. The tension can be felt in the room, as the voices from Mission Control can be heard. And while crowd interaction was minimal those times the audience were called upon they responded, clapping in time to the beat as the track merges with “Go!”. The pace is then brought right down as the mellow beats of “Lit Up” close their set.

While the audience are not screaming for an encore, the amount of appreciation they have is palpable, and there is no denying the anticipation of an encore.

“Welcome to our little fashion show” signals the start of “The Now Generation”, which some might liken to a modern day “The Model”. After a brief discourse about the heat in the room, the question was posed about who else was wearing a corduroy suit?

With the brass section returning to stage for “Gagarin”, the funky beat plays along with commentary on the world’s first cosmonaut. Although the dancing Russian cosmonauts on the screens is rather amusing as they are body popping.

It was refreshing to see the use of guitars, drums, and a brass section – as well as synths and sequencers (not forgetting it is not every hard-pop/soft-rock gig you get to see the use of a flugal horn and a vibraphone!).

A round of thanks and introductions leads into the last track of the evening. The gentle opening of a horn guides the audience into “Everest” leaving them satisfied, knowing that they have had a great evening. And as the lamps retract back into the ceiling everyone from the front to the back of the room is clapping as “How Green is My Valley” plays over the PA.

Set List
Public Service Broadcasting
(intro over PA) Sound and Vision (David Bowie)
Every Valley
The Pit
Theme From PSB
Night Mail
People Will Always Need Coal
Go to the Road
They Gave Me a Lamp
All Out
The Other Side
Lit Up

The Now Generation
(outro over PA) How Green Was My Valley (Bing Crosby)

Head Above water
I want what you got
Live well
So long forever
It’s over


Words and pictures by Jon.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to MySpace