Monday, 30 October 2017

LIVE: Public Service Broadcasting at Hammersmith Apollo (27/10/17)

On Thursday night I headed to Hammersmith Apollo for the closing night of the Public Service Broadcasting UK tour, promoting their latest record Every Valley. Based on a short set I saw them play for the Music Venues Trust last year at the Roundhouse, their Live In Brixton album and my extensive listening of all three studio records I had pretty high expectations and they certainly delivered. Alongside The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace in June, the Stornoway farewell shows in March, The Hoosiers anniversary gigs this month and Bear's Den at the Apollo back in April the gig has certainly made it's mark as one of my favourites of the year! 

After a delay getting into the venue I missed some of the opening set from Londoners Palace who released their debut album So Long Forever last year (listen here) but I enjoyed what I did manage to catch! It may be because I was seated and not thrown into the set as I would normally be from the front of the crowd, but it felt fairly relaxed and not quite as full on as support sets can so easily become, and I was able to actually listen to the lyrics and they proved a lovely warm-up for what was to come!

After a quick turn around the Public Service Broadcasting chaps took to the stage (but not before a friendly reminder to only use mobile phones with respect to those around you - which could certainly do with being said at most gigs!) Opening up with the first two tracks of the latest record I was instantly bowled over and reminded why I love the band so much. If you're new to them, their bio reads that "J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth sample old public information films and archive material and set them to new music. Live, the films are screened simultaneously as laptops are fiddled with, drums are pounded, theremins are wafted at, guitars are bashed and banjos furiously plucked. Teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future.

As the band took us through a set of tracks from all three records (including fan favourites Gagarin, GO! and Spitfire) it struck me just how well thought out (and executed) each element of the show was. The light show was really impressive and the stunning visuals elevated the tunes to a whole other level. Keys player Mr. B, who doubles up as the band's set designer and 'visuals chap' is in charge of the visuals and did a cracking job, with screens across the stage showing a mix of handheld live shots of the band and archive footage (often that from which the audio for the tracks has been taken.)

In the absence of vocals on the most part, the focus is on the musical capabilities of the band much more than in the majority of concerts, and each member of the band proved to be a total genius - each taking on multiple instruments and contributing to a truly impressive sound. They were helped along for most tracks by their brass ensemble The Brassy Gents who brought yet more cheer to the evening while helping to make it sound even better too. With their latest record being the first to feature collaborations with vocalists, they also called on various artists to help on particular tracks. Instrumental trio Haiku Salut joined them for They Gave Me A Lamp and delivered some beautiful harmonies, and in a particularly noteworthy moment of the show, Lisa Jên Brown joined them to perform You + Me, a track which she duets on with PSB's J. Willgoose Esq. Despite his anxieties about playing a quieter track to kick off the encore, the crowd were entirely behind him as he delivered both a beautifully delicate (and rare) vocal and a more beautiful still guitar solo.

As if all of that weren't enough, after promising two more tracks, thanking the various members of the band and performing first album hit Everest (confetti cannons included) the band welcomed the Beaufort Male Choir to the stage to perform Take Me Home, the closing track of Every Valley. With the various members of PSB jumping off stage to watch from the barrier it was a really emotional and fitting moment to close the final night of the UK tour, and the choir got one of the biggest cheers I've probably ever heard at a concert of that size. Absolutely crazy and beautiful scenes which were thankfully captured by a member of the crowd here!

To summarise - long may Public Service Broadcasting reign. Since being introduced to their first album by a friend back in 2014 I've been fairly besotted with their tunes and they certainly do not disappoint in the live environment. Reflecting on the show to write this review I've become instantly desperate to see the band again so I hope that it's not long before they're back touring the UK! I've also realised a new life goal of being pals with the band and getting to witness some of what goes into making their records as my admiration and fascination towards them has increased massively!

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