Public Service Broadcasting @ O2 Academy, 19/10
Public Service Broadcasting, with their genre-bending sound that blends historical archives and music, and self-confessed position as “middle-class Londoners”, create a show unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before. Short, fast-paced clips flicker on and off the screens at the side of the stage, showing coal-miners, their families and the wider communities face up against bureaucratic politicians and jeering police officers; although overtly political, Public Service Broadcasting never once display an image or audio clip from famous figures such as Thatcher or Scargill, instead focusing on the Welsh miners and their immediate relations, to better portray the struggle they faced in the 1980s.
The band’s poignant and immensely moving 2017 album Every Valley is played on stage like the most famous and established of theatrical productions; amidst a stunning stage design filled with life-size wooden wheels, cogs and bolts that transport the audience from a Thursday night in Leeds to the very heart of the Welsh valleys. After opening with eponymous ‘Every Valley’, various other highlights included the singles ‘If War Should Come’ and ‘Go!’, both of which ignited the crowd, as angrily passionate archive clips broadcast over music that is poignant and powerful but never overpowering of the source material. Music remains as an assistant to the material, rather than a gaudy usurper. ‘Go!’ in particular sparks a sing along that is not typical of a Public Service Broadcasting gig, thanks to the limited lyrics and difficult subjects discussed through the band’s music.
This burst of light-hearted energy is a welcome addition to the somewhat tiring evening – beautiful, always, but tiring in the extent of its thought-provoking and political nature. I had expected Public Service Broadcasting’s live show to be ‘different’ – obviously so, because of their immersive, political and orchestral nature – but I had not prepared for how moving the band’s music would be live, played out on stage in front of an audience who are spellbound by the images on screen, whilst immersed in the melodic guitars and occasional erratic riff-beat on drums.
Unlike any live music event I’d ever attended before, I urge anyone to go and witness the band in the flesh for themselves. Moving, historically-poignant and reflective, and more of a theatrical experience than a standard gig; the band have firmly established themselves in the sliver of British musical talent that has a substantial amount to SAY about our society and national history.
[Feature Iamge: Department of Brilliant]