Y Plas, Cardiff University Students Union, Thurs 26 Nov
In line with their adopted mission statement, Lord Reith’s ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain’, the corduroy-clad Public Service Broadcasting preface their set with a public service announcement of their own, which amusingly details the downfall of a fan who films the band on a mobile and ruins it for the rest of the audience. Lesson successfully delivered, PSB hit the stage and, from this point on, stick firmly to the latter part of their mantra, delivering a brilliantly entertaining set.
Expanded from their original two-piece set up, PSB play as a full band these days, which enables them to successfully replicate the multi-layered textures of newer material, taken from this year’s The Race For Space. Most excitingly, the band are joined onstage by a brass section for numbers such as the floor-filling Gagarin, an electrifying homage to the original cosmonaut, which, for four all-too-short minutes sends the whole room into orbit.
The painstakingly pieced-together samples of archive footage, which underpin all of PSB’s material, offer each song a narrative core. This is never more captivating than on new track, The Other Side, which builds in tension, causing the audience to hold its breath as one while the recordings of ‘the longest wait’, when Houston Ground Control lost sight of the Apollo 8 spacecraft on the far side of the moon, are played out. The sense of collective relief as the astronauts renew contact is palpable and the song reignites in a thrilling crescendo.
The Mono-esque If War Should Come segues seamlessly into Spitfire, arguably PSB’s greatest achievement, which compiles samples of R J Mitchell discussing his dreams of the development of his iconic warplane, over footage of dogfights, all set to a knowing Krautrock soundtrack. Frontman J Willgoose Esq.’s crowd interaction, delivered through robotic samples, adds to the fun. Re-emerging for a well-earned encore in a suit-jacket made from silver material, he announces, “I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes. I’m still wearing corduroy trousers.”
A thoroughly enjoyable live experience, and certainly no novelty act, Public Service Broadcasting are stellar tonight.
words and photos HUGH RUSSELL