Public Service Broadcasting | Review
The Limelight, Belfast • Thursday 25 January 2018
By Michael Ferguson / Photography: Marta Janiszewska
South London band Public Service Broadcasting brought their unique brand of musical craft to The Limelight and gave Belfast a night to remember. The three-piece corduroy inspired band of J. Willgoose Esq along with companions Wrigglesworth and JF Abraham seek to draw us in with the clever use of AV displays, public information films and thumping techno, rock and indie sounds. It may well be the weirdest of mixes but it works perfectly.
Stepping out to the sounds of Bowie the band launch into the deep dark sounds of ‘The Pit’ from their latest album Every Valley, which pieces together the painful story of the demise of the coal mining industry in the Welsh Valleys during the 1980’s. Wrigglesworth’s rolling drum beat drives this opening song and indeed is a feature throughout the set. It is fascinating to watch as the multi-talented musicians weave the various components together which make up their unique sound.
The opening salvo is quickly followed up with ‘People Will Always Need Coal’ and the immaculately dressed band are totally rocking the shirt and tie/bow tie look. Yes, they look a little nerdy but I’ve never seen nerds do this before with the ingredients they mix into their music.
The techno electronica of ‘Theme From PSB’ has the venue rocking and an early call from the band to put those hands into the air is obeyed. Only a band like Public Service Broadcasting could make the phrase “how about these slacks and this shirt” sound uber cool but they do and truly deliver a musical masterpiece tonight.
The brass section take centre stage for ‘Korolev’, recognising Sergei Korolev’s contribution as the driving force behind Russia’s attempts to win The Race For Space.
‘Go To The Road’ further describes the heartbreaking story of the death of the coal mining industry in the Rhymney Valley in South Wales. The intensity of the songs from this album are to be admired as they capture the mood and desperation of the time, in spite of the fact Public Service Broadcasting base themselves in South London, a far cry from the valleys.
Transport is to the fore as they portray the story of the ‘Night Mail’ train running the length of Britain from Scotland and through the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Stoke and Birmingham. It’s ingenious and fascinating to be honest, all rolled into one.
There is no frontman to be the centre of attention in the band so this gives rise to an opportunity for all the band members to contribute in each of their inimitable different ways.
‘Spitfire’ is as beautifully crafted as the fighter plane itself and the incessant beat of the drums from Wrigglesworth shakes the room and drives the song to the very last note.
‘They Gave Me A Lamp’ pays homage to the strong women who rallied together the support groups for the striking miners who faced the hardest of times in the 1980s
The aggression pours freely in ‘All Out’, the loud one the band says, and the banging undercurrent of this epitomises perfectly the angst and fury of the miners during those dark days. The band are clever and the AV and overlying music perfectly entwine. It is truly, albeit it somewhat cliched, a Tour de Force.
We venture back into space with ‘The Other Side’ telling the story of the Apollo Eight moon missions being viewed from the relative calm of mission control.
Public Service Broadcasting give the aura of a band who could just spend their days experimenting and this is exactly what they have done, album after album.
There is a ‘call to keep the chatter down’ in the room as it is all systems ‘Go’ but there is little chance of that as the crowd join in with each and every call for Go.
There is a cacophony of noise as the band reappear on stage for a perfect encore, starting off with ‘Gagarin’, a tribute to the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin with the brass section going into disco overdrive before a Spaceman appears on stage and ultimately the show is complete.
The set finishes with ‘Everest’ and beautifully captures the beauty and danger of the world’s highest mountain formally known as ‘Peak 15’. The information film tells those in attendance tonight that Mt. Everest was climbed just because it was there.
The night is done and the band that endeavour to “Inform, Educate and Entertain” did just that. And they made a promise that they will be back soon and we cannot wait. Public Service Broadcasting are pure genius.